Going to a conference for the first time is amazing, the content and rockstars there are overflowing. But, as a more seasoned conferencer, getting the most out of it gets harder, and harder, and harder, until you end up not going anymore. If that is the case, the problem is half the conference organizers and half yours. Well, truthfully, its all your fault. Conferences, people together, are always amazing! In this article, I will give you tips on how to make the most out of conferences.
But before that, let me tell you...
Why conferences are always amazing:
The people. People make stuff happen. People together makes stuff happen. Innovation comes from people. An amazing quote I heard from the open source conference DrupalCon I am at right now: "Open source leads to collaboration, which leads to community, which leads to innovation." And what better place for a community to collaborate than at a conference.
Networking Tips to make the most out of your conference!
- Conferences are about people; have that attitude, and go with that intention. Stop complaining about things you can't control like the quality of the sessions or the internet, and focus on creating personal relationships.
- Small talk is important. Even if you find it valueless, do it a lot. Building relationships is about frequency - you trust somebody more if you've seen them 10 times and said hi 10 times. I've seen people do the big ol "HEEEEEEEEY" when they see someone they saw at a previous conference: instant friendship!
- Find out about the budding rockstars before you go, and study them! Rockstars are famous now and they have their fans, but the budding ones will be the rockstars of tomorrow and are looking for fans. Study the presenters and the sponsor booths and the conference list, and see who will be there. Use this information when in conversation with them, and if you're worried about being "considered a stalker," just say something genuine like "I love reading about someone who I find inspirational." Aww!
- Have a business card for the sake of having a business card. It's a societal behavior mechanism that says "I like you and give you permission to followup." If you can both exchange cards, your chances of follow up will be that much higher.
- Offer something of value to people. It could be "Hey, call me if you ever have any questions and I can help," giving someone the best feedback / consulting from your expertise, offer them something they've been looking for -- like a product. This is where the studying in advance helps, a lot.
- If you have nothing to offer, offer them friendship. Be a person, talk about the parties, the weather, make fun of somebody. Everybody is human, and talking about something besides business is important too.
- You hate talking to people? so people watch. Talking to people is important, but I understand it's a terrifying process for some people and you may not be there yet. Watch people interact, and take notes. For example, I was at the HUGE DrupalCon party and just analyzed the different types of people interacting from the second floor, and saw how some people were able to connect directly with a group while others just wandered aimlessly forever. People are interesting!
One day I'll flush these out more, because networking is an art, and art takes time and repetition and practice. Good luck and I hope this article and the future ones can help you out =)