MicroConf 2020 tips and guide

Going to MicroConf 2020 in Minneapolis, MN? Here are my best tips on travel, hotels, taxi, and my guide for getting the most out of this conference for bootstrapped entrepreneurs.

The brainchild of Rob Walling and Mike Taber, this event bucks the startup trend: it’s not for venture-funded companies.

“MicroConf is a great place to meet like-minded people who are self-funding their businesses. It’s one of the best places to make friends with other people in the same situation as you. In fact, it is one of the few places you can do that!”? – Hiten Shah

Which version should you attend? Growth or Starter?

If you're making a full-time income from a digital product (SaaS, software, other) you should go to Growth

If you're still consulting (or working a day job) and building something on the side, go to Starter. If you attend Starter, come in a day or two early, and you'll still be able to meet folks from Growth!

What day and time should I fly in?

Many folks will fly in a day before the conference to hang out and tour around. I always regret it when I arrive at the conference the day it’s starting.

"Based on my past experience, it's better to arrive early then try to stay longer after the conference. If you want to add a vacation to the trip, add it before the conference instead of adding it after." – Benedikt Deicke, Slow & Steady

For Growth Edition (April 19 - 21, 2020), I recommend arriving early, on Friday (April 18), and if you can, check out on Wednesday (April 22). However, if you arrive early in the day on April 19th you'll be fine.

For Starter Edition (April 21 - 23, 2020), I recommend arriving on Monday (April 20), and if you can, check out on Friday (April 24). If you arrive earlier, you'll also get more chances to hang out with folks attending Growth. Arriving early on Tuesday (April 21) would also be fine.

The hallway track

The “hallway track” refers to hanging out with other attendees outside of the main talks.

This might mean grabbing a coffee with another attendee, joining a table for breakfast, or hanging out in the lobby outside the conference room. People often say that this informal hangout time is the best part about MicroConf.

Here are a few things to remember:

Make a plan for who you would like to meet, and what topics you want to discuss. If you have specific folks you’d like to ask questions of, write a list of their names and what topic you’d like to discuss.

But… also be open to meeting “sleeper attendees.” At any event, there are always people everyone wants to talk to, and then there are folks who aren’t as well-known. Outside of the bloggers, podcasters, and “internet famous” people you’ve heard of, there are tons of amazing entrepreneurs at MicroConf, with awesome stories to tell.

Rehearse your answer to: “what are you working on?” People at MicroConf are curious! They’ll want to know what you’re working on. Don’t be self-conscious. Just tell them about your main project, or pitch them on your business idea.

One idea is to host a reception in your room during the evenings. Buy some drinks, and give out personal invitations (be sure to invite a wide variety of people!)

Joining others for a meal or coffee can be a great opportunity to meet new people. (See below for good options around the hotel).

Be vulnerable. You don’t need to pretend at MicroConf. If you’re struggling with something, share it with others! It’s likely other people have been where you’re at now. Be open and honest; no need to fake it.


The talks

MicroConf talks are packed with tactics. Want to get the most out of them?

Leave your laptop in your room. It’s way too easy to get distracted during a talk by Slack, your email, and other work that needs to be done. Bring a pen and paper, or write notes on your iPhone.

You don’t need to take photos of each slide. Most speakers make their slides available afterwards, and the talks are also recorded. Christian Genco writes awesome recaps at microconf.gen.co.

Enjoying a talk? Let the speaker know! Quote a notable line on Twitter (use the #microconf hashtag), or tell them afterwards.


Giving a talk?

MicroConf is unique in that there are keynote talks as well as talks from attendees. Here are some tips for speaking at MicroConf:

  • Practice. When it comes to being prepared, practising your talk (out loud) trumps everything else.
  • Practice your talk in front of an audience. Give your talk in front of your family, friends, or at a meetup.
  • Watch past attendee talks. You can find them here on Vimeo. Observe what works and what doesn’t. Remember, you don’t have a lot of time, so you need to be succinct and focus on a few key points.

Frequently asked questions

How good is MicroConf?

"It’s really great, but because of all the like-minded people there are to meet and learn from, not because of the talks. I think it would be even better if they cut down on the speaking and added more structured opportunities for discussions, especially for the introverts." – Adam Wathan

How should I handle a hotel, taxi and the airport?

Taking a Lyft/Uber from the airport to downtown seems to be the preferred option.

Chris Moffit says:

"You can take the light rail from the Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport to downtown but its a 9-10 block walk from the station to the hotel. If it were me, I would take an Uber. April in Minnesota can be unpredictable."

What's the best coffee, restaurants, and bars close to Hyatt Regency Minneapolis?

Coffee:

  • Derrick Reimer says: "There are a few Dunn Brothers Coffee shops in the vicinity, which is a local chain. Better than Starbucks, but not quite Penny’s or Spyhouse in hipsterdom."
  • Grayfox Coffee & Wine looks good (10-minute walk from the hotel)
  • Spyhouse Coffee is supposed to be good, but it's about a twenty-minute walk. (Brandon Bayer's favorite place).
  • Penny's Coffee is also highly rated, but a twenty-minute walk in the same direction.

Breakfast:

  • "Eggy’s is a nice breakfast place in close walking distance." - Brandon Bayer

Food + pubs:

  • The Local: Jace Richardson says "The Local is a great bar and you'll probably end up there like 19 times. Food is quite good there as well." (Google Maps)
  • Butcher and the Boar: "good for meat lovers" says Derrick Reimer. (Google Maps)
  • Constantine: another recommendation from Derrick Reimer: "craft cocktails, great burgers."
  • Black Sheep Pizza: Daniel Lavin says "it's 🔥."
  • Smack Shack: seafood restaurant (recommended by Aaron Ackerman)
  • Galaxy Pizza "is freaking amazing with great vegan and gluten-free options (7 min drive)" says Brandon Bayer
  • Gorkha Palace is fantastic Nepali, Indian food (10 min drive)

What's the dress code at MicroConf?

"It ranges from ultra-casual to business casual. Be comfortable. But the room is usually chilly, so plan accordingly." – Dave Churchville

You'll see a lot of folks in jeans, t-shirts, button-up shirts. You'll also see some folks who are in shorts!

"You’ll spend most of the time indoors where they keep the A/C cranked, so it gets surprisingly chilly. At night, it also gets cooler than you would think, so I would recommend a sweater or light jacket." – Adam Delong

Other advice

  • Check your passport well before you leave. Is it up to date? Does it need to be renewed?
  • Push yourself out of your hotel room. You’ll definitely need some rest, but if you hide in your room the whole time, you’ll miss out. MicroConf is about building relationships. If you go to any of the hotel restaurants, you can usually find other attendees.
  • Add Slack to your phone. The MicroConf Slack chat is the main communication channel. It’s where a lot of the planning for social get-togethers happens.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks with other attendees. But being hungover is the worst! Take it slow.

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