June 18, 2018

In May, two major annual trade shows took place in Paris. The first, Viva Technology, is aimed at showing France’s commitment to French innovations and technologies, in line with President Macron’s will to position the country as a tech leading nation. The second, Paris Healthcare Week is dedicated to healthcare and wellbeing.

What’s interesting, is that both are so big that you can look at them in many ways. You’ll see major technology companies such as Microsoft, Air Liquide, Thales, Sanofi or Airbus to name a few, present their offers and brand-new innovations. But take a closer look and you’ll discover many startups from all over the country - and beyond - sponsored by big names and looking for new partners, investors and opportunities to be seen and to grow in a very competitive and challenging market.

I could go through all the companies I got to talk to at each event: I could tell you about Tiago, the friendly, E.T.-like hospital robot who assists medical staff daily with a constant smile on its face, signals when a person has lost consciousness and needs assistance, and whose arm can extend up to 1.7m to pull objects from the floor or to walk patients who wander or get lost in the hallways back to their rooms. Or I could talk to you about Paro, an animated stuffed seal who emotionally supports the elderly and autistic people to bring them comfort through cognitive therapy.

The people behind the ideas

Instead, I’ll tell you about the people behind the ideas on show, about their will to bring a positive difference to those in need, to give back and help in their own modest way with innovations and practical tools.

The overall goal is to make people’s lives better. When you take the time to stop and listen to those entrepreneurs, you hear personal stories which gave life to projects aimed at helping other people. You’ll see a dad desperate to find a way to help his daughter, a son willing to protect his mother, or a woman who doesn’t want to lose consciousness again alone with no one knowing who she is and how to help her. When they talk about their companies, the people behind the startups call them their “babies”, and they’re eager to share the stories.

Although potential investors are their primary audience, they’re still delighted to share the stories behind the birth of their companies. With so many demands on their time, exploring what external communication can bring to their businesses isn’t necessarily top of their list. Next to the development of their innovations this aspect seems secondary, whereas actually they need communication activities to raise awareness and attract the interest of potential new partners/investors. These events provide the opportunity to raise PR up in the estimations of these innovators, to talk about its impact, the benefit of it and how it can add value.

At a time when technologies are everywhere, trying to make people’s lives easier, such events bring the human back into relationships. These trade shows are about connecting; about sharing experiences, expertise and thoughts. They’re also about visibility, awareness and community. In a nutshell, they’re about social networking in real life.

 

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