Money 20/20 USA is upon us. Last year, 13,000 delegates flooded The Venetian in Las Vegas for what is widely considered the most influential fintech conference of the year. In this industry, there is really none like it.
Cognito, as the official agency of record for Money 20/20, provides external communications counsel, secures and coordinates media attendance and coverage, runs the press office and produces content during the week. Each year we have a full team in attendance supporting the conference, but also assisting the many clients in attendance, whether they are speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, or individual delegates.
To help companies plan their activity around the conference, I spoke with Cognito consultants who attended last year for their advice and top takeaways.
Media relations is not a one-size-fits-all approach
A lot of times when we’re speaking to clients, the question is ‘Should we do anything if we're not participating or speaking?’ The answer depends on what you can or want to say, and to whom you want to say it. For companies operating in and around the fintech sector, there are few greater windows of opportunity for external communications and brand-building than Money 20/20. Just because a company doesn’t have a booth or doesn’t have a presence on stage, doesn’t mean they cannot get PR value or media attention from the conference.
Larissa Padden, account director at Cognito offered her expertise as a former journalist:
“You can typically expect a journalist to start considering what meetings to take 3-4 weeks away from the conference. The most in-demand reporters will likely be proactive in booking their own meetings, which means they may hold out on filling up their calendar with companies if they feel they are not a priority.”
Journalists are masters of their own schedules and priorities. When we’ve run media relations campaigns at Money 20/20 in the past, we’ve secured pre-booked meetings with journalists but they are often subject to change during the week depending on moment-to-moment changes in the reporters’ priorities. That also means opportunities can arise with journalists you weren’t able to pre-schedule with. This makes having boots on the ground to identify opportunities and connections on the fly as well as managing interview flight risk a necessity for a company hoping to make the most out of the conference,, as Andrew Marshall explains:
“You need to track reporters and ensure they turn up – that means – ideally tracking online through messaging and their Twitter [X] profiles], and having a visual on them. Make sure you have their cell number and be proactive in getting it ahead of the conference.”
So, you’ve got the interview scheduled, where do you arrange it? Money 20/20 has an impressive press room that is available exclusively for journalists, but it might not be ideal for all meetings. Cognito’s Jasmine Hwang was responsible for hosting the press room at last year’s Money 20/20 and had this to say:
“The press room gets very busy and can be too loud for some. If it’s a simple meet and greet, then the conference floor might be better suited. If it’s a more formal interview where the reporter will want to take notes and be seated, then certainly it’s a great space. Cognito can also help identify journalists or provide information on when they were last seen and their whereabouts, so do stop by and speak to us in the press room.”
Up your networking strategy
Networking at Money 20/20 is frantic - more so than most conferences. The conference floor is always busy but does die down somewhat during the sessions. The coffee and lunch breaks are obvious time slots to target for meetings but are high in demand. Do avoid times when the big and popular sessions are happening.
Yet, it’s after hours where perhaps the most rewards can be reaped for networking. Cognito’s Managing Director US Andrew Marshall had this to say:
“if you are a company and you want to network and sell, have a party near the site. There are plenty on the route through the Venetian shops and restaurants, many starting at 5pm - 6pm – so be on the stand and get invites to people or go visit others’ and give out invites”
On the floor it's a case of priortization and yes, that word again, preparation. Marshall says that knowing who you really want to meet, and reading up on them is invaluable:
“People are happy to talk on stands but you need to have done your homework. You have to have a mental map of the huge exhibition space which reduces it to ten must-meets, 20 targets, and other maybes. Then, having a good idea ahead of time whether the booth you’re suddenly talking at is a 20-strong start-up or a 100-strong major player”
It’s not inconceivable to have 50-100 different types of interactions and introductions over the week. Not every meeting is going to be memorable, which is why connecting on LinkedIn to follow-up later is critical to ensure that each journalist or prospect you bump into on the conference floor will remember you. For Richard Neve, partner, Cognito, this post-interaction follow-up is key:
“Don’t forget to think about the follow-up from the event. The return on investment is generated in the 30 to 90 days after, so make it count. Take a lot of photos, especially of your leadership and people you met so you can up your LinkedIn game by adding that Money 20/20 flavor and tagging people”
Don’t be afraid to be creative on LinkedIn
The role that social media plays at conferences is different than when it was pre-pandemic according to Jade Bestley, director and head of Digital at Cognito:
“There’s less desire to do live tweeting of sessions these days, I recommend investing more on LinkedIn activity. At last year’s conference, there was plenty of DIY filming taking place on the conference floor. It’s so easy and cost-effective now to do quality short video interviews of your people and clients, have them edited, and then published on corporate or personal channels the same day. It gives a much better perspective of the conference vibe to your audiences not in attendance”
X, the artist formerly known as Twitter, isn’t totally redundant, though. It is still the number one when it comes to a journalist’s stream of consciousness. You can gain good insight into what a journalist is writing about and which sessions they find interesting. For media relations in particular, the platform still has an essential role to play in your Money 20/20 strategy.
Finally, don’t underestimate the size and busyness of the conference
You don’t appreciate the size of the conference until you arrive - the conference floor is huge and getting to and from sessions to meetings can be a conquest in its own right, according to Bestley:
“there is so much going on, a packed agenda and a big space, so plan your ‘must see’ sessions and make sure you schedule meetings accordingly”
That need to plan ahead is vital in overcoming the sheer size according to Neve:
“Prepare. Decide who you want to see beforehand as the event is massive and you get lost. The breakfast sessions book out fast and don’t forget the business lounges on the top floor; these hosts will be happy to see you.”
As always, Cognito is here to help so do reach out and we’d be happy to advise as you formulate your Money 20/20 plans.
Samuel Barber is a Senior Vice President in Cognito's New York office