Making the most out of industry conventions takes effort, time and a bit of technical expertise! At least it does for me! I just got back from a whirlwind trip to the BlogWorld Expo and I think I found my convention mojo while I was there!
Like me, you probably go to conventions to learn new tips and tricks to apply in your own business or to take advantage of the abundant networking opportunities. Both are key to your professional development. But how do you find the appropriate balance between convention stalker and wallflower? It’s tricky…especially considering these 2 attendee types don’t swing too far from each other on the freak -geek pendulum. But here’s what I’ve learned thus far:
(1) Arrive on time and sit up front: As a teacher, I always give extra points for attention! And if I didn’t, you already stand out in my mind. This shows your eagerness to learn and participate. You’ll be more apt to get involved in the conversation taking place if you can hear it and you were there when it began.
(2) Listen and ask questions: Duh! But you’d be surprised how many people are distracted by their mobile devices (not me) and other attendees. And for Pete’s sake …ask a question if you have one. It actually provides a great opportunity to engage with speakers…who are often times our heroes!
(3) Be humble, let others talk about themselves: This one is hard for me…mainly because my mouth does not stop running itself once I let it out for a walk. But seriously, people feel good when you give them a chance to share their thoughts and experiences. Plus you may learn something new or just create a bonding moment (which translates to more networking buddies online when you get home).
(4) Timing and wit can be smelly, but worth it: Not that I possess either of these qualities regularly. But occasionally I will find a way to interject myself into the spotlight! Most of this is done at my own expense. However, if you grab an important moment by the horns (usually something you can relate to), do it! I recently gave Chris Brogan a good laugh (in the middle of his panel) by taking a line he said, turning it around on myself, and twittering it. “Sorry for farting in the elevator.” Hey, it broke the ice between us (I believe), and Chris even twittered @nik_nik as a new favorite…and within 10 minutes I had over 60 new followers on Twitter! You know who you are…and you totally rock!
(5) Buy important people drinks: Some of us don’t have the cash to pop bottles all night in the VIP lounge (if you do, invite me). But hooking up some of your heroes with a round of drinks sure doesn’t hurt! Just ask Derek Overbey (aka McLovin) from Roost who held down the corner bar position at TechSet Las Vegas! He made my night by making sure I (along with about 10 other RE bloggers) were never left without a drink in hand! Derek was definitely an efficient party goer as he scored drinks for Blog SuperStars like Sarah Lacy, Pete Cashmore , and Karen Hartline .
(6) Be forward, but be yourself when doing so: If you see someone you REALLY want to meet, don’t be shy. Most of our heroes are very approachable. In fact, Reggie and I have been huge fans of Darren Rowse (Problogger) since we started MTO over 2.5 years ago. Reggie spotted him at the TechSet party and walked right up to him and introduced himself. Darren is as REAL as they come! We chatted him up on everything from social media strategies to the Wiggles. Darren even invited Reggie to guest post on Problogger about his new job! (Coming soon!) Quickie here: you’ll never know unless you try. Just don’t back your hero into a corner and chat about yourself for 3 hours. Meet…greet…and move along to give others the same opportunity.
(7) Be approachable when others come to you: Don’t judge a blogger by their Jimmy Choos! Just as you may want to approach your heroes…others may look to you as the celebrity in their life. (Still waiting for this to happen to me.) So don’t turn down an eager beaver who wants to pick your brain (I promise it won’t hurt Laura Fitton!) or take a picture with you. A feel good moment is a feel good moment! Unless it’s weird.
(8) Use Twitter to connect during down time: If you are not a rallier (that’s a word) type or you are new to an industry and looking for networking opportunities, then be sure that you’re on Twitter and using a mobile Twitter app (like Twitterberry or Twitterific). Follow your heroes, speakers at the convention, peeps you meet, etc. This will make finding lunch buddies and party goers a snap! Also, the latest and greatest conventions are projecting Twitter so that attendees can read each other’s thoughts via tweets during panels….it’s wildly fun and informative! Be sure to ask and know the hash tags for your event and sessions. Ex: Twitter: #BWE08
(9) Refresh: At the risk of sounding like your mom…”go to bed at a decent time”. Now, decent to you may be not be decent to someone else. For me, it’s about 1am (liar…6am). But I typically pace myself (compulsive liar) so that by the last night of the convention I can really “go off”!!! It’s just really nice to wake up the morning of your convention and be ready to tackle it! Especially if you’re speaking!!! Take it from someone who usually plays as hard as she works…nothing but embarrassment (my own) happens during the hours of 3-6am!
(10) Cover the convention like you’re the media: If you can handle a bit of multi-tasking then consider live blogging your convention experience. Reggie and I used Cover ItLive in conjunction with Kyte (for pics & video-which didn’t work the best to our standard) and was quickly replaced with plain old Flickr (which always seems to get the job done). But all the info we shared was in real time and available on MyTechOpinion…not a 3rd party site. And we were able to receive comments from readers interested in the convention…and comment back (once we worked through a few glitches). Speaking of glitches…be ready for them (like a spotty Internet connection) and roll with the punches! Now our friend and fellow RE technologist, Jeff Turner used Qik to record live video. What can we say, the man is a genius! Qik is much easier to use and possibly a better option in the future.
The Day After Pill: When you get home from the convention or even waiting at the airport, be sure to upload all your pictures to Flickr using your event tag(s), and other keywords. Create an album on Facebook as well and tag friends there. Be on the lookout (w/Google Alerts) for other event attendee albums. And if others you’re interested in knowing further post flattering pictures of you with them, be sure to make a comment. Also, don’t forget to find and add all the new peeps you met during the convention on LinkedIN, Facebook, and Twitter. The trick here is to kick off a reciprocal relationship between what happened offline and keep it going online.
DISCLAIMER: Reggie says that a few of these tips, particularly #4, can have a higher success rate if you are woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously but still loves to be the center of attention! I’ll let you be the judge of that!<–>