Connecticut 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. Connecticut 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)
- 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. If you need something...bring it yourself (able cloths, extension cords, tape, scissors, whatever). Any signs are printed at home and there is no full-time staff. This is a free event. Set your expectations appropriately. Sometimes someone donates water and soda. There is no food unless a host supplies it. We usually hit a nearby bar for our official "after-party" after 8pm. 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. Check out your group's link to see everything from venue to schedule and sponsors to what other products will be there. 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 — look for the tab at the top of the page under "Start Here".
Once you submit, you’ll receive a confirmation and enter the queue. Watch for a notification/confirmation email with the date of your event. If you want a particular month, put that in the submission form. Once you receive the confirmation note, please confirm (reply) ASAP and mark your calendar. You must confirm via email or we’ll turn to the waiting list and put you back on the waiting list.
Once you are confirmed, we will get your product published to the website. Just after the previous event, we publish the list of the next companies (usually over the weekend). Please check your listing and link. We can make changes to your page but once voting has started we can't make any changes to the voting form.
Start promoting the event — blog, tweet, LinkedIn, Facebook, e-newsletter. The more votes (and RSVP's) 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. We use a hashtag, #CIN (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 from our Gaggle. We use a social media amplification tool called GaggleAMP to help promote each product. We create the messages from your product description and our Gaggle helps spread the word. Join our Gaggle and help! We also include profiles of the products, in turn, in our newsletter, with links directly to your website.
Our weekly newsletter goes out most Monday mornings at 9am. Be prepared. The top three vote-getters get three 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.
You will get emails from us during your month in the spotlight. Please watch for these in case there are changes or news.
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.
Set-up generally starts at 4pm 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 5pm is last minute. Guests start to arrive at 6pm.
The event agenda:
4 – 6pm: Set-up for Innovators and Experts
6pm: Doors open and guests start to arrive, get name tags and start networking. They will visit the tables for demos.
6pm: Experts Corner open for business. (4-5 industry experts sit at tables and offer advice to guests)
6 – 7pm: Voting for top three products for prize vault
7pm: Welcome, short introductions from experts 30 seconds of who you are and what problems you solve, three minute presentations from the top 3 winning companies
7pm: Table top demos still open; some people not interested in the presentations will use this slower period to talk with the innovators.
7:30 – 8:30pm: More table-top demos, networking, interaction with experts
8:30pm: After-party! Drinks and food somewhere nearby. Everyone pays their own way.
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 CIN bound people before the event. Follow @CTInnoNights 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 CIN 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 a 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. We use whatever system the hosts have - a projector, big screen, etc. Sometimes there is great AV equipment, sometimes not. 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 the 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 CIN be the first time you ever give your presentation. Take feedback from your practice audience. Have fun and smile! CIN is heavily oriented to networking and making connections. No one likes a grump. Don’t be one. 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. As part of our adopted family, we like to keep up on your news. Sell a bunch of product? 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.