Since I just wrote about two different tech events happening in LA this week, on Wednesday and one Thursday, I thought a primer on how to not only survive but succeed at these would be good. There really are some simple things you can do to prepare yourself to hang out with hundreds of geeks to make the most of your time and theirs.
- Bring plenty of business cards. I know, business cards are so old fashioned, just simple ink printer on paper. Remember paper? It’s what we used to use before PDFs. You may think that when you meet somebody new you’ll transfer info via mobile phone or some geeky Star Trek mind meld, but no…the best way is still with a business card. Sometimes I’ll be talking to a group of 3 or 4 people, and after we introduce ourselves and chat for a bit the group naturally dissolves and moves around the room. Always be ready to hand somebody your business card, and ask for theirs. It’s the best way to keep track of who you meet, and frankly, you never know who you may end up wanting to do business with later.
- Bring a pen, preferably a fine tipped Sharpie. Pens are the archaic partner of paper. I use a pen to make notes on business cards that I get from people, and to scribble things to others that I give my business card to. I recommend a Sharpie because sometimes people have glossy cards, and sometimes other pens just don’t work. Sharpies rock my world.
- Bring gum or mints. I know you think your breath smells great, but after a couple of Gimlets and the free stuffed mushrooms, I assure you that it does not. I’m a fan of Wintergreen Altoids myself.
- When you meet somebody, listen to their name. You do it, I do it, we all do it…you meet somebody and 10 seconds after they introduce themselves you cannot remember their name. That is just downright embarrassing. I think this happens mostly because people you are thinking about what the other person is thinking of you when you meet…you focus more on your name and introduction than theirs. Stop it. I’ll tell you what they’ll think when you forget their name in three heartbeats…they will think you are a schmuck. So, forget about yourself and really focus on them for the few seconds that i takes for them to say their name.
- Don’t drink too much. If you are there to make some future business connections, trust me…you’re not going to get the account when the potential client sees you on Flickr doing keg stands and wearing a lamp shade. If you want to be the life of the party, you may want to excuse yourself early and head down the road to a local hangout.
- Have your elevator pitch ready. That isn’t to say that you have to sell something, but you should be able to tell somebody else what it is you do, or want to do, in less than 30 seconds. Ideally if you can get this down to less than 15 seconds you are more likely to have a better conversation.
- Mingle. I’ve been to events where I simply didn’t feel like being there. I was by myself and it seemed like everybody else was with a group of their best friends. This is rarely the case, there are plenty of people looking to connect with others. So, be approachable and come out of the corner. I’m guessing you have some great things to share. If all else fails, come find me and say hi, I’m always happy to talk. I’m the bald, ugly guy that’s hiding in the corner. ;)
- Don’t belittle the host or any of the sponsors. I say this because I’ve heard it done. You never know who you are talking to or who is listening. Hey, it’s their party, if you don’t like it…leave.
- Have fun! This should probably be the first thing on the list because it’s the most important. Even though you are at a tech event to listen to speakers, find out about new technology and network with other geeks you should make sure you have fun. Honestly, the fact that we get to play with gizmos and stuff on the internet all day long…that’s fun! The events should be fun too, so don’t be so serious. Lighten up and have a good time.
I had a couple more thoughts, but as I like to buck trends I didn’t want to make this a top 10 list. I’m no Chris Brogan, but I’ve been to my fair share of tech meetups. So…I hope to meet you at a tech gathering in Los Angeles or San Francisco soon. If you really want to get my attention, send me an @ message on Twitter, you know I’ll see it right away and we’ll connect for real.0