(This post is not sponsored in any way, these are my personal opinions).
As the CEO of Studyo, I’ve had to participate in a growing number of EdTech events and shows over the years. When you believe in a product such as ours, which touches the lives of tens of thousands of students and teachers on a daily basis, for something as intimate as helping them plan their school tasks and time, getting close to your users is as important as getting your product known.
Instead of spending lots of money on fewer events, I find it more important to spend less on a larger number of small events. To go where are users are and learn from them.
Budgets are always important when your company is starting up, especially during the first year or two as you bootstrap and begin serving your first customers. Always spend wisely. But spending is important as you invest in ways to connect with your users and advocates and the rules still apply after 4 years as we tackle larger events such as FETC.
Since the launch of Studyo in 2014, I’ve had to be creative in order to participate in as many events as possible. Choosing the ones closest to us and with the most impact. One such event is EdTechTeacher’s Summit in Boston, which has become more and more focused and impactful over the years. It enabled us to drive down from Montreal and save on flights, yet, allowed us to connect to our first US customers, such as St-Francis Prep in New York City.
Other small events happen all around and we select them as wisely as we can. ShiftInEdu (renamed from MiamiDevice), iPadpalooza, anything organized by EdSurge, etc. Great ways to meet key influencers and more importantly, follow the trends and make sure we listen to them and learn.
So in order to be able to afford this as much as possible, we’ve had to be creative in our materials. Here are my top tricks, hacks and resources.
Vistaprint (www.vistaprint.ca or www.vistaprint.com or…)
They are simply awesome. I’m lucky enough that I have some experience in design, so I can create my own materials, and they are fast and inexpensive enough that if I make mistakes or need changes, I can get new versions reprinted quickly. Plus, being a bilingual company, we need materials in French and English. When I need more involved design, I deal with Bon Melon and their very creative team or with VideoSharks for more specific online marketing tools such as explainer videos and infographics.
How I use them
My favorite items are the standing banners. You can try a few variations over time and reuse the stands with new banners. Switch your kiosk between French and English by switching a banner and keeping your backdrop. You can see some samples in the whole booth set-up pictures below.
We also use the postcards as participant bag items or for mailings, although in our market, those don’t seem to give the best traction.
Of course, business cards are essential and occasionally, a few other items such as posters, stickers, etc.
My most creative use is a mostly white standing banner with our logo on top. I use it as a projection screen as described below.
JinYu Corp (www.jinyucorp.com)
(contact Annie: firstname.lastname@example.org)
This past few months, we added a pop-up backdrop to our set-up to give more pizzaz to our booth. I searched around for quite some time and one of my contacts suggested JinYu as a supplier. This Chinese company offers excellent service and ships quickly. Their prices simply cannot be beat. Our 10 X 10 pop up booth, with printing and a convertible podium-carrying case and two LED lights barely cost us US$820 including shipping. And that is with the wider very sturdy podium/case. I later got the smaller case pictured above as a second option to bring onto flights with me. Fits as an oversize item and sometimes you don’t have to pay extra.
The quality is fine, the case is sturdy and the printing is perfect. I’m guessing it will vary by use case, we don’t do shows every week.
Burton Snowboard Bag (Under $100 on Amazon)
Excuse-me? Snowboarding equipment? How is that relevant? Well, as I was looking for a good way to carry our smaller setup around and check it in on flights, I wanted something sturdy and padded that could contain our standing banners. My co-founder’s wife, ex member of the Canadian snowboarding team, suggested this bag. It is perfect!
I can fit two banners, our projector (see below), marketing materials in a box, a Chromebook in a sturdy case by Belkin, a power bar, a black tablecloth and table runner, and probably more stuff like some extra clothes. You do have to check it as extra luggage, but that is way cheaper than shipping it. Just be sure you check it as oversized, it lowers your chances of seeing it become lost… not fun when getting to a show.
Acer K132 WXGA DLP LED Projector (or equivalent)
Used to be $460 but seems to be higher these days.
This one turns heads. It is a small, 600 lumens HDMI projector that is bright enough to be used as a replacement for a TV or monitor. Some startups buy TVs at a local store and return them when they are done (ask for an open-box demo, don’t be mean). But This means two trips to the store, and I like to have more control on getting back to the airport. Plus, some venues require TVs to be brought in by their personnel, which can set you back a few hundred dollars.
I carry an AppleTV in our kit, but we don’t often use it. Conference networks are sometimes unpredictable. So we connect an iPad directly to the projector using an HDMI adapter, which allows us to charge it at the same time.
Add a medium-length HDMI cable and an L-shape female-to-male adapter and you can either use the AppleTV placed nearby or connect the iPad directly. You might also want to get an analog to digital audio converter if you plan on adding speakers to the AppleTV. We have the converter, but typically don’t use it as we do not present much audio.
Belkin B2B118 Portable Tablet Stage
Search for it by name
This used to be hard to find, and I got it directly from the Belkin rep and it is made for schools. I easily found it on Amazon though. It folds up so it fits in the bag, and because it has an open back, the projector fits in the base to project through the back. I recommend adding some kind of Velcro (hook and loop) equipped piece of fabric to hold it in place, as it tends to move when people bump into the podium or table.
Bonus, you can install a Chromebook or iPad on top of it too to showcase your product.
Banner-projection screen with reinforced frame
We tried a few ways of projecting and the white banner was always a little to wavy to my taste. So I built a custom frame using Home Depot screening frame and L-connectors. Buy a couple of pieces, cut them up to the right size and you have a frame you can disassemble and fit in your bag. I hold it onto the banner to make it taut using extra large clips covered in white duct-tape. Once in place, I remove the front handle of the clip and fold the other one behind so it is less visible. Most people do not notice them.
A week without a suitcase: Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack
Got mine when their Kickstarter campaign launched. Now available in many places.
The airline lost my bag as I was flying towards a conference and it was stressful. I had the chance to buy some clothes onsite, which got reimbursed, but now I try to carry as little as possible. The oversized items made it though, so it made me adjust my strategy.
Enter Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack! Oh, I so love this bag! I’m a bag fanatic, but this thing I hope never to replace. Unless they make a better one! I have the smaller of the two models and got it through their Kickstarter campaign. It is a killer photo bag, with flexible compartments, all sorts of pockets which are extra accessible. The two sides unzip, giving access to each internal compartment so you can separate personal items from your cables and adapters. My 15 inch MacBook Pro easily fits the back pocket, which houses a small pocket I use for passport, boarding passes and such. I am able to fit enough clothes for a two to four day trip if I am smart about it. Even in the winter, I can carry my beloved Columbia, extra-thin yet super warm jacket (an older model of this one) and roll it up in the top extendible pocket if the trip is short enough, and by placing some of my clothes in the snowboard bag.
Oh, and I’ve now also discovered Outlier’s pants and merino t-shirts. The slim Self-Cleaning Dungarees are so comfortable and the Tee is soft and fits so so well. They resist stains and odours for many days, which is a nice feature. The pants also fold up very small.
Ravpower USB-C PD portable battery pack
One of my latest additions and it is a wonderful wonderful one. This beauty can power my 15″ MacBook Pro for a few hours, charge my iPhone or iPad multiple times and I recharge it using the MacBook Pro’s USB-C power adapter in a few hours. A life saver.
It fits in the side pocket of my backpack and I can leave it in there with a cable sticking out to charge my devices at the airport.
In the booth during a show, power is sometimes an issue, so I keep it close and connect the iPad to it via the Lightning-to-HDMI adapter which has a second Lightning port, if I need to.
Just make sure you get the right model for your needs, especially if you wish to charge a MacBook Via USB type C, this means checking for USB Type C PD (Power Delivery).
Miscellaneous other items
Always carry these items with you as well:
- Extra business cards (leave some in your kit)
- Hand-outs (gives participants a reminder to look you up)
- Follow-up sheet (don’t let potential clients “contact you later”, offer to send them something by taking their business card or email.
- A Power Bar!
- A long Extension (many hotels either charge for using these or power is not well distributed. Some conferences are in schools with very few options.
- Brochure holder, business card holder (makes everything look better).
So that’s my road warrior kit, I hope you can copy a few ideas from my setup, I’m always happy to answer questions of course.
Being organized is something I truly believe in and definitely a skill one develops over time. That’s what got me into making Studyo the best organizational tool to help students in one-to-one or BYOD schools develop their organizational skills and to plan ahead. It starts with school work and project and develops into any kind of work-related project. It can be time-related, about dividing work into steps or about thinking ahead of ways to make ideas work.