Conferences: great places for networking
There are many networking events,
but I find that the best ones are
It is where you meet other geeks like you, book publishers, great contacts at some of the biggest companies, contributors to your favorite open source projects, potential start-up partners and the list goes on.
Who should care?
If you’re a consultant, you will find service providers such as hosting or voip. You might also find clients or start-up partners. You will also meet people with complimentary skills who can help you out on contracts. You can even find book or magazine publishers if you have things to say.
As someone looking for a job, you will find your next employer. If you are already employed, you’ll meet core developers on the projects or libraries that you use at work. They might answer your questions or take your feedback regarding their project.
As a business owner, you will find customers and service providers. You will also find employees or consultants if you’re hiring. You will learn about interesting products that other companies are building that can be useful to you. You will also find companies or people who might purchase your own products or services.
As a head hunter or recruitment agency, you will find employees or consultants to refer to your clients. You will also find more companies in search of employees to add to your directory.
When will I find the time?
There are hours when no particular presentation interests you. Instead of going to a random one, skip it and go find people to talk to. They can hang out near the coffee and in hallways. they can sit with their laptops wherever there’s wifi.
Use the breaks between sessions to talk to people instead of reading your e-mails. Every minute counts!
During lunch, don’t go sitting by yourself or at a random table where nobody is in a mood to talk. You’ll lose a whole hour of potential networking. Pick a table with people who asked interesting questions during the presentations.
There will probably be some scheduled networking events at the conference. Read the program carefully to find out when and where.
After the event, don’t go home right away. Chances are that people will go out for a beer. Follow them (you don’t have to get drunk). This is where you’ll have a chance to find the people who are less visible in public, but are still very sociable.
Yes this will exhaust you.
But remember that this will expand your network.
You can even plan to stay an extra day (which I usually do) to get more face time with the people that you just met. Speakers, especially international ones, often stay extra days anyway because flights are cheaper when they stay a whole week.
How will I keep track?
You will meet so many people that you will forget their first names. Always take their business card if they have one. If they don’t, make sure you have a small notepad ready. In any case, give them your card. Bring a lot of these, you don’t want to run out.
When you receive a card, usually after a short conversation, scribble a note on their card to remember who they are or what you talked about. You would, for example, write “Zend_AMF” on Wade Arnold’s card because he’s the guy who wrote the component.
Make sure you ask people their names and remind yourself their names often. If you’re no longer sure, ask them again. They’ll understand.
When you get home, go though the cards and refresh your memory. Get in touch with the people through e-mail, Twitter or LinkedIn while the relationship is still fresh.
Do conference organizers care?
As a conference organizer, I do care. Having visited many international conferences, I know what it’s like to be a visitor or a speaker. I know where, when and how networking happens at conferences. If I feel that something is missing, I tell the organizers and fix the problem at my own conference.
All comments to this post will be considered as suggestions for the upcoming ConFoo conference, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.