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Startup’s guide to Money 20/20 – How We Prepared For Our First MAJOR Trade Show

Startup’s guide to Money 20/20 – How We Prepared For Our First MAJOR Trade Show

Money 2020 in Las Vegas this past October was one of the largest live events that has happened since the beginning of the pandemic. Thousands of attendees had the opportunity to interact and connect with potential clients and strategic partners. Hear directly from the industry thought leaders and learn about new experiences of major companies and present their own start-ups at the exhibition. 

The event ran from October 24th-27th alongside panels, discussions and plenty of networking opportunities. 

So, what does it take for a first-time exhibitor start-up to make a splash at one of the biggest Fintech trade shows in the World? This piece covers the do’s and don’ts of preparation, what worked better at the actual event, and finally… would we recommend it as a must-do fintech show? 

Let’s dive in!

Missed Marks 

Making a decision to participate in a large-scale event in the US is not easy.

However, the actual preparation, thinking through all the details and trying to be perfectly ready for everything is a mammoth task of its own. Hence, do start planning months ahead. As soon as the idea to take part in the event arises, begin arranging or estimating what you, as a company, might need. For instance, in our case, we didn’t have enough time to order some of the merch since it would take a longer time to prepare. 

Therefore, be ready for things to go wrong. Even during the actual event. 

‘The exhibition seems like a live organism that moves in its own direction and tune. So, don’t be surprised if something goes awry. In our case, we had our dedicated power line not working in the morning on two occasions, but upon being notified the staff reacted promptly and fixed the problem. So, I’d have the contact information handy.’ – Says Identomat’s CEO, David Lomiashvili.

As mentioned, the event is a great opportunity for making new, meaningful business-connections. To help the networking process, the Money 20/20 team did a great job designing and implementing much needed meeting arrangement and scheduling features into their app. Nonetheless, one shouldn’t fully rely on dedicated event apps, given that for some people it’s not easy to adapt to new tools and user experience so quickly, especially in such a fast-paced environment as Money 20/20. It’s also easy to miss the meeting reminder notifications, while some   folks choose to just cancel the meeting right before or not show up at all. Make sure to salvage your connections during panels, live meet-ups at stands, after-parties and other junctions. Don’t forget to replicate them to an outside medium like LinkedIn, e-mail, etc.  

Panel talks are very appealing to attend and it can be extremely tempting to go to as many as one can. However, be aware that if you’re exhibiting, it will take a lot of time from your plans and wants. Instead, prioritize the talks that you really want or need to attend, that would be useful for your future business prospects and make time for them.  

Keys to Success 

Make sure to choose your merchandise wisely. Make it relevant. 

‘For us, the obvious choice were the masks, since the pandemic was still raging and let’s be honest, many people forget to bring one of their own.’ – Says David Lomiashvili.

It’s great to have a well thought-through plan of how to stand out at the event. Videos are generally a great tool that catch many eyes. So, as a business presenting at an exhibition, likely with better funded competitors with shinier booths, it’s only logical that you’re hunting for as many eyeballs as you can.  Do as much as possible to be distinct – one of them is having a quality video demo about your company. 

Alongside merchandise, don’t forget about printed goods, like business cards and brochures. People are not keen to walk around a huge exhibition and collect papers to then carry around, it’s uncomfortable. We’re in the digital age. Consider  using small promo cards with QR codes as links to your digital promo sheets, landing pages etc. 

Networking at the event and building a relevant base for future prospects is one of the reasons why attending Money 20/20 is so appealing. Some of the most interesting conversations, surprisingly enough, happen when you least expect it. From our experience, it was at the topical private parties. Make sure to go to as many as possible – it’s likely that you will get invited to some by your existing connections, but put effort in seeking some out yourself. 

Now, as for your social media. Planning out your SM strategy is a great idea – diversify your posts throughout the event, be proactive and reactive. Prioritize the platform that has the biggest concentration of your target audience, this way you will get better reach and coverage. Keep in mind that candid photos from the event floor (e.g. behind the scenes) trigger great engagement and reach. 

Don’t forget to brainstorm relevant hashtags, after all it’s the tool to keep your posts easily-seen and identifiable. For more excitement or buzz, it’s great if you can come up with a ‘merged’ hashtag of your company and the event that you’re attending or presenting at. 

“Hunting for eyeballs” probably applies to social media even more so than to the real world these days. So, our marketing team came up with an unusual tactic to showcase our technological concept and the event branding while tapping an underutilized channel – they created a custom, interactive filter for Instagram and Facebook Messenger. Filter allowed users to record a short video reel of themselves being (pretend) biometrically scanned for liveness (assessment of human/non-human). Unfortunately, we published it kind of last minute, so it didn’t have enough time to garner the momentum needed for any level of virality. But creating a custom filter is something not many teams can ideate let alone deliver. So, we’ll put this one down as a viable tactic that needs to be timed better next time. 

‘…creating a custom Filter is something not many teams can ideate let alone deliver.’ – David Lomiashvili

Keep in Mind

While it is easy to get caught up in the event-planning details and preparations for the company, take into account Visa paperwork if you’re traveling. It takes time to collect all of the documentation and arrange the US visa appointment at the consulate. The bureaucracy can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. 

‘We always planned on going to Money 20/20 with all 3 of us co-founders, but as usual, the bureaucracy intervened. Our CTO, Rezo Imnadze, couldn’t get a US Visa appointment because the consulate was backed up until 2023.’ – states Identomat’s CEO, David Lomiashvili. 

At the end of the day, in business, it’s all about the ROI. So, the big question is: was Money 20/20 USA 2021 a good investment for Identomat? Well, given that we’re already looking forward to next year’s event, the answer is not that hard to guess. 

Collectively,  Money 20/20 USA was an amazing avenue for brand visibility, direct outreach, market research, and competitor analysis. It was also a great learning experience. We are glad that we decided to sponsor a large-scale exhibition, networked with meaningful businesses, and  fostered  strong connections. 

And last but not least, the Identomat team would like to thank the Money 20/20 USA organizers for implementing detailed COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and attendees for upholding them to keep an event of this proportions feel safe and comfortable to attend during an ongoing health crisis. 

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