In this bonus episode of Startups For the Rest of Us, we realized that we have never talked about the refocusing of MicroConf US and MicroConf Europe and growing our extended hallway track to focus on helping founders build more connections.
Since we started the event in 2011, we’ve done 35 of them now. The feedback we’ve always gotten is that the hallway track is the best part of MicroConf, and the speakers are an excuse to get us all in a room so that we can meet one another and build those relationships.
After Covid hit, we decided to take a chance and adjust our traditional format. We cut down the number of speakers and focused more on additional ways to grow the hallway track. In MicroConf US – Denver – this April, we’re at 5 speakers. All the rest of the time is spent doing activities and connecting with other founders, including through offsite adventures, roundtables, workshops, etc.
Finally, we’ve also introduced Founder by Founder, which is like speed networking. We set a seven-minute timer and encouraged everyone to talk to someone they don’t know and introduce themselves.
Whether it’s at the workshops, the offsite adventures, or Founder by Founder, we’ve found getting out of your bubble and connecting with other founders has been an extremely valuable change and a shift to the way that the MicroConf in-person events happen.
Head over to Microconf.com/events to see all of our events happening this year.
Welcome to this special bonus episode of Startups For the Rest of Us. This is a Thursday drop. It’s a .5 episode, which we’ve used historically to have episodes that are maybe outside the timeline of the main feed, outside of the cannon, if you will, of startups For the Rest of Us. This episode came about because of a conversation I was having with Producer Xander and we were talking about the dramatic overhaul of MicroConf, the in-person event specifically that we’ve done over the past couple years. And we both realized that we’ve never come out and talked about kind of the refocusing of MicroConf US and MicroConf Europe on our expanded or extended hallway track, that we have dramatically shifted the event to focus on connection between founders. And since we started the event in 2011, and we’ve done 35 of them now I believe, the feedback we’ve always gotten is the hallway track is the best part of MicroConf and the speakers are an excuse to get us all in a room so that we can meet one another and build those relationships.
And after Covid hit, we decided to basically gamble, to take a chance, and to adjust our traditional format. So when MicroConf first started in 2011, we had 12 speakers over two days, and we quickly moved that down to nine speakers over two days. Still a lot of content, and you could meet folks in the morning for breakfast or at lunch and then there were some evening gatherings. But in 2022 in Minneapolis, we cut the number of speakers down to six, and then MicroConf Malta, which was just a few months ago, we cut it down to four. We got some feedback that four might be not enough. So I believe at this point we’re at five speakers, for MicroConf in Denver here in April. And the reason I wanted to say this on the podcast is I think if you’ve attended a MicroConf in the past and you feel like that’s no longer what you need or you don’t want to go somewhere and watch nine talks, MicroConf is literally two or three talks during the whole day, plus a couple attendee talks.
All the rest of the time is spent connecting with other founders. So we’ve started having offsite activities, adventures, that basically maybe push you outside your comfort zone a bit, but you do it with the other founders. So we’ve historically done things like kayak tours. We had an improv workshop in Minneapolis. Brewery tours. We had a trapeze class where people literally went offsite with other founders at MicroConf and they did trapeze class. They learned how to trapeze. And that’s just not something we’ve historically done, but we found that the attendees love these activities. In addition, we’ve introduced round tables, we’ve introduced workshops, and the nice part is we have what, four or five workshops and you’re able to pick one that applies to you, and these are smaller groups. And it’s not someone giving a talk, it’s you interacting with the other attendees. It’s you interacting with the person who is leading the workshop. And the feedback on those has been really high.
And finally, we introduce this thing that I think each of us secretly dreads, but is super valuable, and the feedback also been positive. It’s called Founder-by-Founder, and in essence, it’s speed networking. We basically set a seven-minute timer and we say, “Go talk to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Talk about what you’re working on. Talk about your biggest problem, biggest success, whatever you want to do.” And again, several founders have said, “When you said Founder-by-Founder, I was thinking, I don’t want to do this, but it was one of the most valuable parts of the conference” because you get to meet four or five people that you otherwise just wouldn’t go outside your comfort zone to meet, right? Because a lot of us come to MicroConf and we see familiar faces, and it’s amazing, but getting out of your own bubble and meeting other folks, whether it’s at the workshops, whether it’s at the offsite adventures, whether it’s at Founder-by-Founder, we’ve found has been an extremely valuable change and a shift to the way that the MicroConf in-person events happen.
And we’re not just doing this with our flagship events, the big two and a half day events, but we’re doing it with our local events. MicroConf, Locals started out as like a single day event with several talks. And now MicroConf Local is essentially a three-hour happy hour. We basically get together, do some Founder-by-Founder, usually I have a guest that I interview for about 30 minutes. I’ve interviewed Jason Cohen, Rand Fishkin, MailChimp co-founder Ben Chestnut. And then the rest of the time it’s hanging out. So there’s like 30 minutes of content, but it’s a three-hour gathering. And the feedback we’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly, that’s the right amount, that’s the right ratio. We don’t want three hours of talks, 30 minutes is just fine. So I’m saying this on this podcast because this is something that’s hard to communicate. If you go to the MicroConf website, we can say all day that this is an event focused on building community, and you’ll meet founders and we have the hallway track, but it can be hard to fully understand the dramatic shift that we’ve made over the past couple years.
And so if you haven’t been to a MicroConf in a while or you’re wondering what it actually is like, if you’ve never been, I’d encourage you to check one out. Our next MicroConf is in Denver this April, 16th through the 18th. And if you want to be in a room and meet a couple hundred other amazing bootstrapped, and mostly bootstrap, founders just like you. They are listeners of this podcast.
They’re members of MicroConf Connect. Head over to microconf.com/americas and you can grab your ticket. There’s still some left. It’d be great to see you there. I hope you can make it.
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