Tis the season of conferences galore in the entrepreneurship, innovation and impact sector both locally in South Africa and internationally. While these are good spaces to understand new knowledge creation from the past year, for both the budding and seasoned entrepreneur it is also a platform to “see” and “be seen” as being relevant to the ecosystem so great for strategic networking.
Many of these conferences are however hugely expensive for startup entrepreneurs and in the past few weeks many have contacted me to ask for help in getting free access. While I too believe that many of these spaces of potential opportunities has a high barrier to entry for a key beneficiary of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, I do believe that startups can buy their ticket through a show of ingenuity.
I’ve long discovered that conference organizers are often open to exchanging services for free or discounted tickets. These are a few ways that I’ve gotten and given access in the past:
- Managing the registration desk
- Photography and/or videography skills
- Report writing for the conference
- Finding paid participants
- Social media management
Whatever your offering is, the point is to offer something of value and not just expect to get in for free. The business model also needs to work for the organizer, but with sponsorships they can often create a few free spaces. As a startup low on cash-flow you can garner more respect when not merely asking for a freebie but presenting yourself as an asset which could ultimately position your brand for further opportunities. For the emerging entrepreneur that may have come from a well paid corporate job this may be an awkward conversation to have. Bear in mind that the worst you can receive is a “no”; this would only be one moment of many rejections that come with doing business so park your pride and flex your hustle muscle.