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Lessons learned from having a booth at a conference with over 53,000 attendees

by Markus Pirker on November 20, 2016 –

Userbrain at WebSummit 2016 in Lisbon
Doors opened and people started pouring into Hall 2. Just a few minutes later our booth was crowded and we had to answer many questions about our product.

We were attending WebSummit in Lisbon as an Alpha Startup. A conference with over 53.000 attendees. And this is what we learned…

Don’t sell, learn

I never learned so much about our product as in just the one day speaking to people visiting our booth.

We were already doing regular customer interviews on the phone and speaking to people using our service, but listening to people who had no idea of our product changed everything.

These are  some of the questions which came up regularly:

  • Is this some computer-based testing or are real people involved?
  • We already use unit tests (analytics, mouse click tracking, etc.). What is different about your solution?
  • Are the testers aware that they are getting filmed?
  • Can I target specific users?
  • Can I test apps with Userbrain?
  • I’m using Usertesting.com but it’s very expensive – what do you offer?

As you can see, the questions were actually very basic. Our premise has always been that people already know about the method and value of user testing. Because of this, we promote the value of regular testing intervals:

Screenshot of the Userbrain Website

It turned out that almost nobody we spoke to at Web(!)Summit knew how the remote usability testing method worked in detail, nor what the insights you get out of this look like.

Of course, our booth located in the “Software Development” area attracted a special kind of visitors (i.e. developers). But we spoke to a lot of people from agencies or other startups as well, and almost none of them knew about the concept of user testing in detail.

We always assumed that the term “user testing” is already established on the market, and we never thought about writing a single word on our website to explain what this method is about.

It now turns out that we have to invest more time educating people about the actual value of watching real users using their products for the very first time.

Tell your story

The great thing, when speaking to people, is that you can continuously fine-tune your pitch and learn very fast which explanations and stories attract interest and which don’t.

What aroused great interest was telling them a little about my background.

I spoke about founding our consulting agency while still being in college and having the luxurious experience of working within an awesome team with a very diverse background for the last 8 years.

Userbrain booth at WebSummit 2016 in Lisbon

What fascinated them was that we stumbled upon the problem of people not testing things and that we tried to fix it by building our own product. We weren’t just a bunch of crazy guys living in their own reality distortion field, but we had actually identified a real problem while working with real customers.

I told them that, as a usability agency, we often get a call when it’s already too late and very expensive to fix major problems, because the website is already live. Instead, it would be much smarter to undertake testing as early as possible during the development process.

This story turned out to be especially powerful when we pitched our product to investors.

Show your product (and your customers)

We had a setup of two MacBooks and one iPad at our booth. (Lesson learned: Don’t forget your iPad stand!)

Userbrain booth at WebSummit 2016 in Lisbon

On one MacBook we ran a prepared presentation of the USP of Userbrain with a couple of customer logos and a testimonial by Ryan Hoover. Our logo slide turned out to be especially powerful as I saw a couple of people stopping and having another look as our logo slide showed up on the screen.

Userbrain Pitch at WebSummit 2016

The other MacBook was open on our website and any visitor was able to see part of our product like the dashboard or the test setup. We walked people through the on-boarding process and tried to give them a feeling of how Userbrain would feel for themselves.
(Lesson learned: Make sure that the websites you show are already cached in case of a bad WiFi connection)

On the iPad we displayed a sample video of one of our testers testing the on-boarding experience of Spotify. This allowed us to move potential customers away from the crowded area around our booth and show them a sample video of a user test done with Userbrain at a more quiet place.

When all 3 of us where engaged in conversation I can remember people taking pictures of our booth or just quickly asking for something they could take with them to remember us. We then handed out our vCard and they moved on.

Print more vCards and dump the flyers

We had prepared a form we expected people to fill in indicating their website and choosing a task they would be interested to see one of our testers perform on their website. We would then send them a free user test after the event.

Userbrain Demo Request Flyer for WebSummit 2016

We printed 300 copies of this form, but we threw most of them away after the event.

Only 3 or 4 people attempted to complete this form at our booth, but they had no clue about which task to choose (a common issue which we will tackle in a future release of Userbrain.) They then ended up by talking to one of us and we just swapped vCards and promised to get back to them via email.

Speaking of vCards: We handed out almost 400 vCards in just 3 days of WebSummit. Many connections after the regular event occurred during our bar sessions.

Collected vCards during WebSummit 2016

We spoke to people from Google, O’Reilly, Shopify, Startupgrind web and marketing agencies. Almost all of these conversations took place at some bar or on the street during NightSummit – the get-together event in the evenings. It is simply more down-to-earth if everybody holds a cold beer in his or her hands.  :)

Lesson learned: Make sure that you are in good physical shape to endure going out till 4 a.m. almost every day. :)

Follow up

I received a lot of generic “Awesome to meet you – here is our free trial link” emails after WebSummit. I dumped them right away because I can’t remember anything about the sender.

If you want to engage your contacts after the event you have to make it personal. People will bump into maybe hundreds of other people and they simply won’t be able to remember every conversation they had.

You have to give them something to remember you. This is an email I used to reach out to the contacts I made a couple of days after the conference:

Userbrain Follow Up E-Mail for WebSummit 2016 contacts

I made sure to include a picture of me and to use my first name and the company name in the email address, so people could remember our conversation more easily. I also included a link to my Linkedin Profile. I also added at least one paragraph referring to some point of our conversation and showing genuine interest in the recipient of my email. Whenever possible I included a link to an article concerning the topic we spoke about.

If you are interested in how to set up such an email footer, HubSpot provides an easy and free way to generate email footers with links and profile pics.

As you see,  my main goal was not to push people to a free trial or make a quick sale. My goal was to establish an honest personal relationship without being pushy in any sense whatsoever.

I ended up sending more than 50 follow-up emails and got replies from almost 2/3 of them.

Summing up

Overall, WebSummit was an awesome experience for us.

Not only did it put a lot of pressure on getting our new corporate design ready or fixing already known flaws of our signup process, but we got closer as a team and finally found some time to speak about product decisions in an environment outside our hectic everyday lives and projects.

Incorporating all the lessons we learned will take some time, but validating our ideas during conversations with prospects can really boost the motivation to change things.

WebSummit, you will see us coming back again.