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How Entrepreneurs Can Maximize Opportunities At Events It's hard to decide on which ones to attend and which not to, and it's even harder to know how to prepare for these events and what to expect, especially as freshman entrepreneur.

By Yousef ElSammaa

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As an entrepreneur, you're faced with constant opportunities for different events taking place all year in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. These events differ from small competitions and mentorship events, to larger scale events such as RiseUp, ArabNet and so on. It's hard to decide on which ones to attend and which not to, and it's even harder to know how to prepare for these events and what to expect, especially as freshman entrepreneur.

Here are some key points to help you set your mind on the right track:

1. Don't attend any event just for the fear of missing out.

A lot of entrepreneurs fall down this path and think it's mandatory to be present in every event to show that you're still surviving, or because of a fear of missing an important opportunity. It takes sometime to realize this, but investors are more likely to feel trust in you if they know you spend your time working on your company and less time being distracted by social events. The key here is know how to balance: try to pick the events that you know certain key people will be attending, or those that meet the right stage of your company. Usually, it's better to aim for the bigger events that happen once a year and bring in all the important stakeholders involved all at one place, and this should save you a lot of time and effort.

2. Define your needs.

It's very important to first decide what you want to get out of each event. What are you looking for? Investors? New partners? Networking opportunities? You'll be much more efficient and will make the best of each opportunity if you know exactly what you're looking for.

3. Do your research.

Once you've identified what you're looking for, it's important to find out all that you can about who you want to talk to and why. In these big events, people rarely have time to talk to everyone. If you know who and what you're looking for, it's easier to find someone who can make a good intro or schedule yourself to be at the right time, place and mind set to grab the right opportunity. Create your own chances and don't wait for them to happen.

4. Try to be on stage.

If there's a chance for you to be pitching or talking on stage, there's a bigger chance you'll get more exposure faster, and maybe the right person will come looking for you instead. If that's not an option for you, then try to get involved as much as possible, attend sessions, rent a booth, join workshops. Don't just stand there; be there!

5. Don't miss the big opportunities by thinking small.

A lot of people think that these events are a waste of time. I can say from a personal experience that the right events aren't. Our company was able to successfully raise its first big round from a single day at RiseUp in Egypt. It took us one opportunity to pitch at the right panel, and we were able to set the first stone that was just the beginning to a series of other rounds- and it all started on that day. The lesson we learned is that it takes one right opportunity to change the course of your journey, so don't miss it.

6. Learn more about your audience.

I've seen first hand that a lot of people pitch to big investors at these big events. They think that if they just talk about their idea, investors will be swept off their feet and throw in their money- however, it's safe to say that never happens. If you get the chance to talk, start with the important numbers, lead with your traction, show them you're building something successful, and then they'll want to hear more about the idea behind it.

7. Think different.

You might fail at reaching the right investors, but there might be an even better chance for you to find the right partner or grow your customer base. These events are a good chance for you to market your company to potential customers, employees or partners. Make the best out of that opportunity, and talk to as many people as possible.

As an entrepreneur, you should know by now that there's no right formula to building a successful business: what worked for some might not necessarily work for others. The right events will help you knock on more than one door at once, and with good planning and preparation, you might open the right one that was meant just for you.

Yousef ElSammaa

Co-founder and CEO, ElWafeyat

Yousef is the co-founder and CEO of ElWafeyat, a company that offers a digital alternative in the Middle East for obituaries, condolences and funeral services. ElWafeyat has been through Flat6labs in Cairo and 500 Startups in Silicon Valley, gaining a lot of exposure and experience in the process. Yousef is also one of the co- founders of The Hit, the first product innovation competition show at the American University in Cairo.
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