Thursday, January 7, 2010

Entrepreneurship Workshop

World's Best School has a club that organizes an annual workshop, which I'm calling the Entrepreneurship Workshop (EW), that is going on its 13th year. This conference is the world’s premier student run entrepreneurship conference, and this year it's being held in March in Cold Foreign Land, far away from here. The conference focuses on fostering entrepreneurship through the creation of infrastructure such as that epitomized at World's Best School. Originally founded to help inspire business plan competitions around the world, the EW has expanded and shifted its focus towards building sustainable environments for entrepreneurship.

I haven't mentioned this on the blog yet, but I'm on the organizing team for this year's conference. The conference is three days long, and it's full of keynote speakers, panels, case studies, mixers, and other exciting activities. I am in charge of one panel, and one case study. I decided to do the panel on the subject of "Young Entrepreneurs," because that's a subject near and dear to my heart.

I have lined up an excellent moderator for the panel, and three successful young entrepreneurs from around the world - Canada, the UK, and San Francisco. Actually come to think of it I did kinda skew that toward English-speaking countries, didn't I? Maybe I should add someone from the India/China region... My case study is on "Starting a Company without Venture Capital," and I haven't officially confirmed the speaker but I'm excited about the company I'm trying to nail down.

The organizing team is split into two parts - the team that organizes the content of the conference (event planning, recruiting speakers, organizing panelists, logistical issues, housing and transportation, etc.), and the team that does contacts (marketing, sales, cold calling, generally getting people to show up to this thing in Cold Land Far Away). During last semester, the content people (that's me) were very busy nailing down the substance of the conference. Now, the majority of the content is (or should be) settled. Now it's the other way around - the contacting people are very busy with the marketing and calling efforts.

The contacting people have to spend a certain amount of time each week manning the phone banks, calling potential conference attendees from our database. The content people ALSO have to do this, although only two hours per week.

So I've now done a total of four hours of cold calling people to come to this conference. I've never done sales before, I've never done telemarketing, or anything of the sort. I had a training session, but it's still completely new to me. I had some trepidation about this, because... well shoot, everybody feel squeamish throwing themselves out there to strangers and asking them to spend money.

Each person has an appointed a region of the world, and all the database contacts in that region are then assigned to that person. My region happens to be Africa/Middle East, and I have about 450 people in the database assigned to me. After I got into the swing of things, it's really not as bad as I expected.

It's actually kind of exciting knowing I am sitting here, comfortable in my chair at the phone bank, calling up Egypt and Nigeria and Tunisia and Morocco and Syria. I've only been hung up on once, and I've gotten a few good leads. A lot of the time the person answers the phone in some other language, but on most occasions when I pipe up "Hi, I'm Miss Outlier" they change over to English. Broken English, perhaps, but usually I can untangle it.

This morning I called Seychelles. I had to Google that before I called to make sure that's even a country.

So now I'm feeling very multi-cultural, very global, very small-world-after-all. 

Miss Outlier, meet world - World, Attention, la voici... [Watch out, here she comes... in French, the language of choice in Tunisia]

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting experience. I had a government-based summer job once that involved a lot of cold calling and I absolutely hated it. I think its one of those skills that you love or hate. Maybe if I was phoning Seychelles it would have been more exciting!