Maine Innovation Nights are different from other events you have been to. If you are exhibiting at an upcoming event, or considering exhibiting at an upcoming event, please read this post carefully. Innovation Nights is a “you get out of it what you put into it” event — participation counts heavily toward your final grade (results.) Every piece of information we can think of, every question is answered below.
- Make some noise for local companies (large and small, new and old but you need to have a local connection)
- Launch new products into the social media circle
- Help make local companies successful so they grow and can hire more of us
- Provide cross-industry inspiration for entrepreneurs and innovators
- Provide a supportive venue for job hunting, idea shopping and general networking
What the event is like:
- This is bare bones. The tables are bare — no drapes, no skirts. Sometimes you’ll share a table. It’s not fancy. Any signs are printed at home and there is no full-time staff (unless you count the fact that we all have other full-time jobs to pay the rent.)
- If you need something…bring it yourself. (Table cloths, extension cords, tape, scissors, whatever.) This is a free event. Set your expectations appropriately.
- Sometimes someone donates water and soda. There is generally no food unless a host supplies it (some do/some don’t), or it is one of our Foodie events where, yes, there is some sampling. (We usually hit a nearby bar for our official “after-party” after 8:30.)
- We don’t always run on time.
- We change things at the last minute. We’re always trying to make it better but sometimes our experiments don’t work. Please be patient with us.
- All the information is on the website – please check there (and here) first. Check out your event’s links to see everything from venue to schedule and sponsors to what other products will be there. Look at this page and the emails we send you for more information.
- We try to make sure everyone has a good time and that the event accomplishes our goals. Otherwise, all bets are off.
- Submit your product online.
- Once you submit, you’ll receive a confirmation and enter the queue. Watch for a notification/confirmation email with the date of your event. We’ll try to accommodate your needs but often there is a long line. Sometimes, theme events will mean that some companies jump the queue.
- Once you receive the confirmation note, please confirm (reply) ASAP and mark your calendar. You MUST confirm via email or we’ll turn back to the queue and put you back on the waiting list.
- Once you are confirmed, there will be a little wait until your group’s turn and the products get published to the website.
- Relax! It can be a few months before it is your turn.
- Start promoting the event immediately — blog, Tweet, LinkedIn, Facebook, e-newsletter. The more votes (and RSVPs) you drive, the better for everyone.
- Note: it is one vote per IP address to avoid cheaters. (The system will allow you to vote as many times as you want but will only count one vote per IP address – and, in fact, the system works like a light switch with the second use of the same IP address “turning off” the vote. If you work in a large building, you may find that someone else used up the IP address. If this is the case, we suggest voting from home and telling your friends to do so as well.) There can also be a delay in logging the votes if many people are on the site at once. It refreshes the count every 15 minutes.
- We use a hashtag, #getupstarted (and a number) to help identify the event. All this information will be in the email you receive with the notification that the website is live.
- During the month run-up to the event, you’ll see Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts. Share, share, share!
- We also include profiles of the products, in turn, in our newsletter, with links directly to your website.
- The top vote-getters get 5 minute presentation slots at the event. Voting closes the day before the event at noon. You will receive an email if you “win.” But please don’t wait until the last minute to practice your presentation. You have one chance to make a good impression. If you need help, get it (or talk to us — we run a marketing firm and we’re good at this stuff.) If you do not win the pre-event voting, you will still have a table at the event and we still expect to see you there. Please don’t be a sore loser and just not show up – your appearance at the event is still incredibly valuable. (Not showing up is NOT COOL. This has happened a couple of times and we hate to disappoint our audience. Plus you took a spot away from someone else.)
- You will get helpful instructional emails from us during your month in the spotlight. Please watch for these in case there are changes or news.
- Just to be clear, Innovation Nights is a way to promote your company and product but we do know that many companies come looking to connect with investors as well. We suggest companies leave out any details specific to your fundraising. Save that information for face-to-face meetings with specific investors after our event. Yes, with the JOBS Act there are changes to the general solicitation rules (and a significant amount of confusion) but if you are unaware of these rules and what you can and cannot say, we refer you to your legal counsel.
- The experts corner is just what it sounds like — a group of experts get their own tables and spend the evening giving advice and answering questions. Our experts get an opportunity to greet the crowd during presentations – this is not a full-fledged presentation but rather a greeting. Think under a minute. We usually describe it as your 15 seconds of fame, versus 15 minutes. Invite people to come back to your table and talk one-on-one.
- Set-up generally starts at 2:00 pm the day of the event. Table selection is determined by who walks in the door first — please don’t give us a heart attack by not showing up until the last minute (Any time after 3:30 is The Last Minute).
- Guests start to arrive at 4:00.
The event agenda:
- 2:00 – 4:00 pm — set-up for Innovators and Experts
- 3:30 – team meeting for all exhibitors
- 4:00 – 5:00 pm — Voting for the Audience Choice winners.
- 4:00 pm — doors open and guests start to arrive, get name tags and start networking. They will visit the tables for demos.
- 4:00 pm — Experts Corner open for business. (4-5 industry experts sit at tables and offer advice to guests)
- 5:00 pm — Welcome, short introductions from experts (15-30 seconds of who you are and what problems you solve), 5 minute presentations from the 4 winning companies
- 5:00 pm — Table top demos still open (some people not interested in the presentations will use this slower period to talk with the innovators)
- 5:30 – 6:00 — More table-top demos, networking, interaction with experts
- 6:15 — Clean up. Please help! If we all pitch in, the work goes quickly.
- After-party! Drinks and food somewhere nearby. Everyone pays their own way. (This is how we get people to leave quickly so our exhausted hosts can go home too!)
Things you can do to be more successful at your event:
- Promote the event, your company’s participation and the participation of the other exhibitors too.
- Bring out your supporters. Help kick up the excitement. Get your supporters to vote. Trash talking and bribery are allowed, nay, encouraged.
- Bring everything you need with you: tablecloth, extension cords, flyers, cards, displays, etc.
- Don’t bring your monster booth that takes 4 hours to assemble. Bring the sign you can put up in 5 minutes.
- Bring a tablecloth to cover any size desk or table (not the fitted one that ONLY works on one size table.)
- Think about how you can quickly communicate the benefits of your product – especially to a crowd that might not play in your industry. What can you do to catch someone’s eye?
- There is Internet access at all our venues but sometimes it gets overloaded. These aren’t formal tradeshow venues with lots of staff so plan ahead for Internet failure. Bring slides, or your site on a laptop or an aircard.
- This is a Twitter-heavy crowd. Make sure you have a Twitter account and connect with other Maine Innovation Nights bound people before the event. Follow @massinno and interact with us on Twitter. Display your Twitter ID at the event so people know who to talk about on Twitter.
- Special offers for Innovation Nights participants rule! Contests are great! Giveaways! What can you do to create some excitement?
- Bring your simplified product press release with you. Short product collateral. Maybe a bowl of mints or chocolate.
- If you are picked to present, leave the boring PowerPoint with 100 slides and detailed demos at home. (If you do use PowerPoint slides, bring them on a thumb drive so we can load them on a single PC and not waste time swapping out computers. If you have a Mac, export to a PDF. Swapping out computers is just asking for trouble. TRUST US ON THIS.)
- We use whatever system the hosts have — a projector, big screen, etc. Sometimes there is great AV equipment, sometimes not. SPEAK UP.
- This is a general audience that might not have experience in your specialized field. This is not the time to recount the 25 special features of interest only to deep experts. This is the time to tell a funny story about how you came up with the idea and why your product is going to be huge!
- Tell us who the perfect customer is — there might not be one in the audience but someone in the audience might know one.
- Practice. Practice in front of a mirror, or your family. Practice in front of an audience. Don’t let MIN be the first time you ever give your presentation. Take feedback from your practice audience.
- Have fun and smile! Innovation Nights is heavily oriented to networking and making connections. No one likes a grump. Don’t be one. There are also lots of cameras. Your picture will be taken. Smiling pictures are better pictures.
- There is also no expectation of privacy. You will have your picture taken and your product will be splashed all over the place.
After the event:
- Welcome to the Innovation Nights family. Whether you like it or not, you’ve been adopted. We like to keep up on your news as part of our adopted family. Sell a bunch of products? Let us know. Get funded? Let us know. Win a big award? Let us know.
- We like bragging about our kids — we’ll Tweet about you, feature you in the newsletter, tell all the cousins, etc.
- We’ll add you to our “special stuff” email list.
- Reporters frequently contact us looking for stories — we send these notes around. People give us free tickets to conferences. We give these tickets away.
- Someday, we’ll have more free or discounted stuff to share — we’re always working on it.