First-timers’ Guide to The SaaStr Annual
Attending any conference for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. When that conference spans 3 days, features 150+ amazing speakers across 2 stages, and includes the opportunity to network with 5,000 fellow attendees…. Where do you start?!
We’ve had a ton of questions come in from first-time attendees: How do you decide which session to attend when there are 2 happening simultaneously? What should you bring? What should you expect? How long will it take to get from your hotel to the venue? Do you need to rent a car? And the #1 FAQ – what do I wear??? (Fer reals, it’s not just you.) So we reached out to a few SaaStr Annual 2015 veterans and asked them to help put together a comprehensive guide that’ll answer the most common questions – and address some you would never have thought to ask!
We’re highlighting excerpts from each contributor – but be sure to check out the full posts below, each has a TON of great info that you won’t want to miss!
Common Advice from the Vets:
The common threads among all the Insider’s Guides were threefold: have a real plan to optimize networking, be prepared for more top-quality content than you can possibly absorb, and don’t forget to have fun.
Network, network, network.
This made everyone’s list in some form or another. SaaStr is built around community, and there is no other place in the world where you can meet as many diverse, brilliant, dedicated, and innovative people who are as passionate about SaaS as you are. Break out of your comfort zone for a couple days and make meaningful connections.
- Set a networking goal. Maybe you want to meet 1 person each day. Maybe it’s 3 per day. Maybe it’s a founder who’s exactly where you are. Perhaps a VC is on your checklist, or 3 great VP Sales candidates, or that customer or prospect you really want some facetime with. Give some serious thought to this in advance, and know who you want to meet and why… then make it happen!
- Bring plenty of business cards. Way more than you think you’ll need. You’ll be networking non-stop, even when you’re not actually trying. Don’t underestimate this one.
Be prepared for the quality of content.
With two stages and 150+ speakers, there will be no shortage of sessions to attend. But what first-timers aren’t really prepared for is the quality of content. There are no overviewy powerpoints and softball questions. We invest a TON of time selecting both speakers and topics that will truly help you build your business. No fluff.
- Bring a notebook. Maybe 2 of them. Yes, we’ll have recaps and videos available afterward, so you don’t have to write down every single thing you hear – but there will undoubtedly be little nuggets that address your specific pain points that someone else wouldn’t think to add to their recap. You’re going to be inundated with new names, ideas, products and solutions that you’ll really want to remember later… just bring it.
- Plan your session attendance. With the addition of a second stage, this is not optional if you want to get as much value as possible from the event. The official mobile app will help – scroll through the agenda and decide which sessions are must-attends for you, then you can scroll through again and fill in supplementary sessions in the remaining time slots to make the best use of your time. Be sure to schedule in a break to connect with our sponsors. It’s your chance to not only score some cool swag, but also to pick the brains of those who provide the solutions designed to help scale your SaaS. Take advantage of it while the reps and execs are in front of you!
Have some fun, you deserve it. Yes, there’s a fine line between networking and not working, and as a founder, you don’t have time for much of the latter. That’s ok, we’ve got it baked in. Start your day with an Irish Coffee? Yup. Get your shoes shined or have some new headshots taken? Check. Get your silent disco groove on in a two-story unicorn art car? Yes, you will indeed be able to check that one off your bucket list too.
Our friends at Gainsight *really* know how to have fun. Just MWAH, brilliant! Check it out…
And some bonus tips…
First time to San Francisco?
- Plan to leave your hotel a lot earlier than you think you need to.
- Skip the car rental and use Uber or Lyft.
- If you want to step out from the venue for a few minutes, take a stroll through Huntington Park or wander into the beautiful Grace Cathedral, both are directly across the street from Masonic Center. And the oh-so-San Franciscan cable cars also run along California Street if you want to hop on and ride down our famously steep hills.
What to wear
Many attendees have reached out with this question. I was a little surprised at first thinking, “It’s San Francisco. Wear whatever you want,” but to those accustomed to professional dress, I can see how the “fashion” in Silicon Valley can be a little opaque. So here’s my quick and dirty guide… It’s business casual. In San Francisco, that can mean jeans and a jacket or sweater or maybe trousers and a button-down (up?) shirt. Full suits with a tie will look a bit out of place, unless you totally go for it and add a vest and pocket square (at which time I’ll call you dapper/divine and tweet your photo.) But if you want to rock your startup tees and hoodies and get your name out there as a walking billboard, no one will bat an eye. Five minutes into the event, you’ll see that what you’re working on is a lot more interesting to your peers than what you’re wearing.
Have more tips of your own? Leave ’em in the comments.
And for the VERY best tips and tricks, check out the full posts from our insiders….
5 Things You Need to Know
Let SaaStr do the heavy lifting. SaaStr’s approach to the after-event recapping is refreshing—they do an extremely effective job of summarizing and sharing the event content with you, so your can spend your time at the event actually taking in your surroundings and learning, instead of just rapidly taking notes.
Spend time in the sponsor area. The companies and reps featured in this area are both entertaining and informative. If you are thinking about your CS/sales/marketing stack, this is where I’d recommend looking for vendors. I recommend checking out Entelo, Gainsight and Marketo specifically. The hottest up and coming technologies will be there, in one place, and it’s your time to ask as many questions as you like.
Set a goal: Network with 5 people. Leave it to the head of marketing at a goal-setting company to recommend setting your own personal goal for the conference—but each year I walk away with new relationships thanks to the powerful network opportunities that nearly present themselves. Whether you are looking for specific connections or simply want to open the door for future opportunities, make it your personal goal to jump into quality (go beyond the introduction) conversations with at least 5 people. Leave an impression, get their contact info and follow up immediately to foster the relationship.
What to Prepare and Bring with You
ChartMogul enjoyed the inaugural SaaStr Annual so much that this year, they’ve signed on as a sponsor AND are sending 5 of their team members all the way from Berlin! They’ve put together an awesome, comprehensive list of tips for first-timers that you just have to check out.
- Make sure to download the event app, you can connect with other attendees and view the agenda.
- Plan which talks you want to see – the speaker lineup is fantastic and there will be many great talks – but you can’t see everything (there are two tracks). You can bookmark talks in the event app.
- Bring a notepad, there’s so much knowledge and tips being shared, I ended up with pages of valuable notes last year…and this time it’s three days instead of one!
- Bring a LOT of business cards – you’ll be meeting with founders, investors, existing customers, potential customers, potential partners, come prepared.
And that’s just the beginning of their list! It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you’re flying in from overseas, as they’ve shared their learnings from doing it themselves last year. Check out the full post.
A Comfort-Crushing Event
Even getting out of your office and to an event with other people sounds interesting… but just isn’t possible with all your other demands. Or is it?
Aaron Ross of Predictable Revenue tells anyone he meets in b2b companies that they need to be at (or send people to) this event.
Why, what’s the big deal?
It’s not your same-old blah blah blah conference. It’s THE center of the hyper-growth universe right now.
4 Reasons To Attend The SaaStr Annual
- speakers: you’ll meet or learn a lot from CEOs & C-Level sales / marketing / product execs of the world’s fastest growing b2b tech companies. Plus VCs. Plus partners. Etc.
- crowd: almost all b2b/SaaS revenue-related executives & entrepreneurs. Thousands of them.
- bizdev: If you do ANYTHING with tech startups (sell to, hire from, market to, learn from) – you’ll have prospects from all over that will be here in one place.
+ the main reason…
You’ve got to check out Aaron’s post over on the Predictable Revenue blog for that one! And he linked to a special opp that will net you copies of his and SaaStr’s new book for your whole team + an Annual ticket for a really great price! Go see what he’s offering.
The 3 Phases Of SaaS Growth At SaaStr Annual 2016
Our friends over at InsightSquared are making the decision as to which sessions are most relevant to where your business is today and where you’re heading in the near future by breaking the key sessions down by growth phase.
On the path to $100 million in Annual Recurring Revenue, SaaS companies generally go through 3 phases:
- Initial Traction – up to $1 M ARR
- Scaling – up to $10 M ARR
- Market Dominance – up to $100 M ARR
Check out this post on the InsightSquared blog for the top 4 Must-Attend sessions at every phase!
3 Reasons to Attend the SaaStr Annual
1. It’s by and for SaaS entrepreneurs. Jason and the SaaStr crew have a laser focus on helping SaaS businesses grow and scale. The team has put together a great conference agenda with speakers that include: Zenefits CEO Parker Conrad; Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez; Netsuite CEO Zach Nelson; Tomasz Tunguz Partner at Redpoint Ventures; Aaron Ross Author of Predictable Revenue; New Relic CEO Lew Cirne and Mattermark CEO Danielle Morrill and over 100 more!
The SaaStr Annual is a great opportunity to submerge yourself as an entrepreneur, founder or fan in some of the best thinking and knowledge there is around building SaaS businesses.
2. Great networking opportunities. Beyond the sessions, make sure you take the time to network. Lighter Capital is sponsoring Happy Hour every afternoon, so put on your extrovert hat and work the room! There may even be a prize or two on offer.
Top 7 Tips To Succeed at SaaStr
Kyle Porter and our partners and SalesLoft offer up their best insider tips for making the most out of your SaaStr experience in this post, including their essential guide to surviving the week.
ONSITE SURVIVAL GUIDE
You laugh, but it’s true. You will need a survival guide for what’s been dubbed as the “mini-Dreamforce”. Here’s a checklist that might be most helpful:
- Make sure all devices are fully charged (and take an external phone charger).
- Know all passwords and logins for fast appointment setting, sans technical difficulities.
- Meal plan — whether as a meeting, a team regroup, or a moment alone to recharge.
- Hydrate and caffeinate. This is beast mode, so be prepared.
- Take an advil in the morning, wear gel-insoles in your shoes — anything to maximize comfort throughout a helluva week on your feet.
If you’re still waiting to buy your SaaStr Annual ticket, go buy it RIGHT NOW. Today. Before we sell out – we are just days away from being wait-list only! You do NOT want to be the only SaaS Founder/Exec who wasn’t there for the moment a surprise guest popped up on stage to share his crazy-inspirational unicorn story, or who missed the chance to meet 1:1 with a VC. Go check out the lineup and the agenda (we’ve added 100+ speakers in the past 2 weeks, plus a 2nd stage!) and get your ticket.