Prior to joining Carsonified I used to attend a couple of web related events each year. By the end of 2010 I will have racked up 20 events including conferences, workshops, meet ups and other assorted geek gatherings.
Attending a conference is a lot of fun but it’s important to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. It’s easy to be unprepared and having learnt the hard way here are a few of my “web conference survival tips”.
Before You Leave
- If packing a laptop consider a smaller Netbook. I recently bought a Dell Mini 10v and thanks to a friend in the know I now have a fully functional “Hackintosh”. It’s lightweight, has decent battery life and above all is small, compact and cheap. Mac Book Pro users will be pleased to note that they don’t burn your things after prolonged use!
- Take plenty of business cards. Be sure to include your Twitter name and your best promo photo, these will make you much more memorable. Even better is personal shwag, these badges and card bags from Sam Brown spring to mind.
- Prepare your “elevator pitch“. It’s harder than you think to explain what you do quickly and succinctly. Being able to clearly state what you do to new people will start conversations.
- Plan for bad wi-fi provision. If you have a 3G dongle pop it in your bag and make sure it is topped up with credit.
- Always pack a small note pad and pen. I like Field Notes as they fit nicely in your shirt or jeans pocket.
- Let your Twitter friends know you are going. Consider popping a link to the event announcing you will be there in your e-mail signature.
- Create a Twitter search for the event and subscribe to it in your RSS reader. Here’s the one I use to track our FOWD events. This will also help you learn more about other attendees and activities happening around the event such as BarCamps and meetups.
- Learn about the speakers by reading their latest blog posts. Should you meet them before they have given their talk you will have something to chat about.
- Got a product or service then don’t forget the fliers.
- Pack headache tablets!
At the Event
- Pick up a local taxi firm card from your hotel. This will prove invaluable.
- Keep an eye on your Twitter search for non official meetups. For example at dConstruct the Fountain Head was “the” place to be prior to the pre-party.
- If there’s a pre-party don’t go too mad. Remember that if you need to justify your attendance to your boss a clear head will help.
- Remember to charge your laptop and mobile phone when you get back to your hotel. It’s easy to forget when you get back from your social activities.
- Take a bag to the conference. You will pick up brochures, t-shirts and other assorted goodies. There’s nothing worse than having to hold all your schwag.
- Check to see if drinks are allowed into the auditorium. You don’t want to finish your “Vente extra foam caramel skinny soy latte” (retail price £4.99) in a rush as your favourite speaker is on the stage and you can’t get in.
- Take water into the auditorium (hidden in your bag). Older venues, especially in the UK, do not have air conditioning and it can get hot.
- If you are using an iPhone reduce the brightness, turn off Bluetooth and turn off the volume. The first two will prolong your battery, the last one will keep your neighbours happy.
- Try and collate the main take away points for each talk. Should you need to write up the conference for your team or boss this will make it easy. Also bring back brochures and goodies for those who couldn’t attend, naturally keep the best items for yourself.
- Go through your pile of business cards and contact the people you met, and were interested in, and re-introduce yourself. This makes a follow up e-mail in the future much easier.
- Connect with the people you met on LinkedIn and other relevant social networks.
- Compare experiences with other attendees. It’s always interesting to read other people’s account of the event. I use a Google Blog Search to track the event, follow up blog posts and photos.
These are just a few of my tips, feel free to add yours in the comments.