How to hack into conferences and get noticed

Objective: To attend a tech/web conference and get noticed while having maximum exposure.

I got this latest blog post idea from soon-to-be author and owner of Duck9 (and a great networker) Larry Chiang from “What They Don’t Teach You at Stanford Business School” and you should read his earlier version of how to work a conference. In the past two months, I have been to two of the most popular tech & web conferences in the United States: South by Southwest and the Web 2.0 Expo. Here’s how you can get the most out of it but at the same time try not to go broke enjoying yourself.

  • Look for any good deals. This includes the hotels, airfare and even with registration. Are you there to attend the sessions? Which days are worth you going? What about if you’re only there to check out the expo and perhaps see some related events? Some conferences offer expo-only passes with some additional benefits, like attending the keynotes, but not the actual sessions.
  • Join up with after-parties and events on Facebook. Any after conference events that could be of significance will be listed on the social networking site and you should always check to see if your friends are going. It doesn’t matter whether they’re going or not – just that you’ve placed your name as “attending” and have RSVPed. 
  • Get on Twitter and follow the hashtag for the conference. It doesn’t hurt to be live tweeting the conference if you happen to make it to the event. You’ll find that there are those that will follow you and you will immediately have a nice rapport with them. People who are doing something cool or impomptu that you might not know about off-Twitter will advertise it there.
  • Get out there and meet people in the hallways. Don’t just sit by the wall reading or checking your email. Go find the blogger lounge or community area and just sit around and talk to the people at the tables. You’ll get to meet some great people. Ask them about what they do and check out their work.
  • Swap business cards and follow through at the end. If you’ve met some people at the conference, don’t forget to drop them a line afterwards and make sure that they recognize you. After a few times, they might remember you, but in a more professional environment when you’re both hundreds of miles apart, it doesn’t hurt to have a friendly reminder.

A secret tidbit that I’ve had pretty good success at is lugging around a camera and documenting the entire conference – that includes the sessions, keynotes, the hallway activity, and even the parties. It’s all about networking and people will stop you to talk about what you’re doing and that gives you more opportunity to strike up a conversation. Whatever you do at a coference, make sure that you find a way to separate yourself from the crowd and just go with the flow.

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