Conferences are great for keynote speakers, panel discussions, and hearing from the horse’s mouth about the latest developments in your field of techspertise. But what they are really awesome for is making new connections.
Networking. Yep, I said it. But I like ‘making new friends’ a bit better.
So here’s Skillcrush’s list on how to have that super successful conference.
1. Airbnb it and skip the expensive, and boring, hotel.
If you’ve taken the time to travel to another city, get a little tourism in on top of the conference. Rent a room with a local through Airbnb. Be sure to ask your host where the best brunch, lunch, dinner, bar, dessert, and one-thing-that-absolutely-cannot-be-missed is.
2. Don’t over-schedule your time.
You’re not a middle schooler with a helicopter mom! You are never going to make it to everything, so why try? Keep your plans loose and allow for down time, which can be the best time to meet other people.
3. Do not look at your phone when you feel awkward.
Yes, the iPhone is fascinating. Yes, Steve Jobs was a genius, but seriously, you have the rest of the year to gaze at your phone/tablet/gameboy/laptop. Now’s the time to go talk to someone new (maybe someone who’s looking at their phone feeling awkward), pepper them with questions, and see if you can’t find a commonality. Where are they from? Did they see so and so talk? What are their favorite apps for designing websites? What do they do when they feel awkward at a conference and didn’t read Skillcrush’s ‘8 ways to make friends at a conference’ blog post?
4. If #3 is too hardcore for you, then at very least, bring a powerstrip.
Seriously, powerstrip + rabid techies + one power outlet in a conference room the size of football field = instant friends.
5. Listen and learn.
6. Be the introducer.
Once you’ve met a couple of new friends, you can introduce them to one another. Mention a detail about each of them as you introduce them. For example, you could say: “Hey Robin, meet Chris, she just started playing with CSS3 Transforms, and I know you just started dabbling in that as well.” Or “Hey Chris, meet Robin, Robin is considering moving to San Francisco to work for a new gaming startup, maybe you can tell him what it’s like out there?” If all else fails, go with “Hey Robin, meet Chris, Chris, Robin. You both like to stand and awkwardly look at your phone at conferences. You have so much in common!”
7. Now take your group of new friends and go out to eat!
Since your Airbnb host gave you the inside scoop on where to go and eat, take your group of new friends out to said very cool local spot. Spice up the conversation by asking everyone to weigh in on the never-ending debate: to Ruby or PHP?
Extra points if you confiscate all their digital devices as they enter the restaurant.
8. Follow up after the conference with an email.
Follow your new friend on Twitter while at the conference, but make sure to follow up when you get home with a nice personal email. That way, you can stay connected and maybe next time you’re at a conference in your new friend’s city, you’ll have a place to crash.