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Startup Weekends are some of my favorite events for entrepreneurial communities. I have been to several throughout Iowa – sometimes in my day job as a journalist, some as a community volunteer, and one (so far!) as a participant. Every time, the energy is amazing.

Pitching at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.
Pitching at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids 2014.

I frequently recommend the experience to others, so I know there can be an element of hesitation. You get 52 precious weekends in a year – why would you want to spend a whole 54 hours with strangers, working hard on a totally unpredictable project?

It’s true that attending Startup Weekend is an investment – to some extent, with money, but to a greater extent, with your time.

But, at the end of the day, it’s an investment you’re making in yourself. It’s a decision to spend time on learning and growing.

It’s a chance to make new friends and expand your network. It’s a chance to stretch yourself professionally or be introduced to a new skill. It’s a chance to introduce that idea that’s been living in the corners of your mind to the rest of the world. It’s a chance to break out of your normal routine and refresh your thinking.

What do you want out of it?

With the mindset that Startup Weekend is an investment in yourself – I’d recommend taking a few moments to think about your hopes and goals for the weekend before attending. You’re putting in the time, what do you hope to get in return?

I went into my weekend as a participant hoping to meet new people, learn something new and be part of a team that built something functional and useful. I was overwhelmed with how great I felt about all of these things by Sunday night.

There are always a few people who don’t come back after Friday night. From what I’ve seen, these tend to be people who only want to work on their idea, so if it doesn’t get picked they have no interest in joining another team. (Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this option.)

Other people might come to Startup Weekend determined to be on the winning team. Or to really start a business (if you can do that with people you just met – more power to you).

Some people just want to build something awesome before returning to their day job on Monday.

All of these goals are perfectly legitimate. They could all also drastically change how a participant feels and acts. Keep your expectations in mind throughout the weekend to shape the experience you want to have.

Read more via We Create Here: Reflections on Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids

Find the next Startup Weekend in Iowa at swia.co!

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Sarah Binder