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Lessons Learned at EntreFEST

Last week, a group of us (Jason, Kate, Lana, Chris, Megan, and I) packed up and headed to Iowa City for the 2-day EntreFEST conference.

Far Reach at EntreFEST
 
Some of us had been to EntreFEST before, some hadn’t. We were excited to go because 1) we are entrepreneurs, and 2) we love helping entrepreneurs with software product ideas turn those ideas into reality.

As with any business conference, we went in expecting to learn. And learn we did. We took in more knowledge than we can share in a single post, but below are the overarching lessons that made EntreFEST a fabulous learning experience.

Nothing Beats Face-to-face Networking

No matter how many emails we send, LinkedIn connections we make, or @-mentions we tweet, none of it compares to good old in-person networking—hand-shaking, business-card-swapping, beer-drinking networking.

But networking only with ulterior motives (sales, leads, and other selfish endeavors) makes for fake connections. It’s all about being genuine and building mutually beneficial relationships.

At EntreFEST, we saw how great Iowa is about getting people connected without keeping score—thinking “I’ll refer you to create a potentially beneficial connection for two people,” rather than “I’ll refer you because then you’ll feel obligated to refer me.”

Don’t Just Talk, Do

Not much gets done if all you do is sit and talk about your business ideas. At some point, you just have to start making something. When you have a product idea, of course you have to plan, strategize, and, yes, talk. But if you have too much talking and too little doing, you’ll go nowhere.

Fun and Friendship Creates Awesome Products

Ben Gilbert, formerly of Microsoft, spoke as the lunch keynote on the first day. One lesson we all took away was that working in a fun environment with people you genuinely like on projects you’re passionate about is a recipe for powerful products. Fun and Friends make great products
 
Finally, we understand why we make such awesome products at Far Reach.

Business Owners Have to Be Pitchers

No, we’re not talking about curveball connoisseurs.

Entrepreneurs need to be able to quickly communicate the premise and benefits of their businesses to any audience—customers, investors, and any other stakeholders. We learned a few tips from Bill Kenney of Test my Pitch:
  • Know your audience and tailor your pitch accordingly
  • Focus on a problem and how your business solves it
  • Use easy-to-digest language
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Show the passion you have for your business
  • Be brief during the Q&A session
  • Respectfully accept feedback; don’t get defensive

Buckets of Bacon are Awesome

Not much to add here, honestly. We just enjoyed a bucket of bacon as a team and, really, how much better does it get?

Bucket of Bacon