“Get your rocks off?”
Not what you expect to be asked at Websummit, or anywhere — but this is exactly what we asked.
We took 1,000 rocks and 8 laminated pieces of paper to an event showcasing the best in tech.
And it worked. It stopped people in their tracks and got them talking.
At the end of the day, technology was always going to be the winner at Websummit. We saw some incredible advancements across the full spectrum of industry.
Standing out in a crowded space
You have less than 7 seconds to make an impression; at a conference even fewer. As I was walking around I would stop for no longer than the time it took for me to read the description of the booth, sometimes I wouldn’t stop.
If someone didn’t speak to me in that fraction of a second I looked, I moved on.
And this is the trouble with conferences — you have a split second to get someone to engage, have a conversation, make a connection.
We had a booth on the third day of the event and knew that we would have to work hard to get people to stop.
Educated Change has some really exciting AI-driven software. It can tell you exactly what to do to be found online and how to social sell. The 20-page report tells you how you come up in search rankings, specific changes to make on your LinkedIn profile, keywords that both your clients and competitors are using, and how your writing style impacts how you come across online:
Pages from our Change Report
Everyone wants to stand-out, but hardly anyone does. We were slightly more unique than most companies because we had a booth on the third day of the conference. This only put us in a league with 800 companies.
This is still a lot of people.
We needed something different.
We have excellent solutions for content, but that in itself wasn’t going to stop someone in their tracks.
We got the whole office together and spoke about whatever came to mind around this topic.
We came up with the cornerstone of our booth — our tagline:
This can be with clients, competitors, employees or investors. Anyone that you want to create a better relationship with.
We know that a tagline alone is not enough to draw a crowd so we thought some more.
Some smart soul at the back of the room suggested we took rocks, physical rocks, to Lisbon.
No-one vetoed the comment.
The usual rock-based logistics conversations took place, and we finally decided on 1,000 rocks, a nice round number
And that was that.
We set it in motion and the action plan was set:
Lisbon — On the day
Since our booth was on the third day we had lots of time to think about what a terrible idea this was. Should we have just brought business cards? Should we have left the rocks?
Either way, it was too late. We had the rocks, and they made it to Lisbon.
The final day came around and we dragged our rocks, all 1,000 of them, to the conference.
It was a lot of rocks. And we weren’t taking them home. They were all going home with lucky conference attendees.
Doubt set in as we handed out the first rock.
It was tense.
But it worked.
It didn’t just work, it excelled. People loved it, they engaged, they laughed, they smiled and they congratulated us.
We drew them in with a rock and then showed them through our change-report, our flagship product.
We knew that we had the intro, we had the hook, and then to close and get their details we needed something further.
It came in two parts.
Both methods had to be easy to communicate, relevant to what we are selling, and not get lost in translation.
We that if you played us at rocks, paper, scissors, you would win a free change report on the spot.
BUT — If you lose, then you have to take the rock, decorate it in any way that you want, and then upload it on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, and use #ECRocks to let us know.
What did we learn from our case study in conversation?
We learned a number of things from this conference, including:
- People will stop and talk about anything — even if they don’t think they need it or want it at all. It’s very helpful to have a prop.
- It’s helpful to show what you’re talking about.
- A flyer is pointless unless it is accompanied by something concrete.
- Being unexpected is tough — but we did it, and did it well.
- We sold tech with a rock and a piece of paper.
- We were the opposite of what was expected from a conference.
- Stopped people in their tracks — only about 5 people said ‘we don’t have time’ — the default response at a conference.
- People at booths are intimidated because there are so many people to talk to. Always concerned you’re talking to the wrong person. But you really don’t know if they’re the right person until you start talking to them. You have to start somewhere.
- If we’d left it to attendees to come and talk to us, we would have talked to ten people, instead, we talked to over 900.
- Make people smile. Don’t take yourself too seriously. We absolutely opened ourselves up to ridicule and people could tell we took a risk. They appreciated that.
- Listening is important at every level. Some investors missed out on a fun conversation because they assumed I wanted money from them. Listening is important at every level.
- Making people laugh is key. We amused people and they humoured us. We made the conference fun and didn’t try to jam our solution down their throats.
- Most importantly we had fun coming up with the idea. We didn’t know it wasn’t crazy until we handed out our first rock on Thursday at the booth.
- Age didn’t necessarily indicate engagement or willingness to chat.