LearnWeb Conference Survival Tips

writes on September 7, 2009

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.

Post Event

  • 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.

0 Responses to “Web Conference Survival Tips”

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  2. Terrific notes – thanks

  3. Congratulation guys…..good luck.

  4. Oh, and one more: always bring a powerstrip. (All due respect, but i’m gonna note FOWA Miami 08 as an example). If you we’re there, I was plugged in next to the bathroom, on my knees under a table, charging my laptop. Definitely underestimated the power situation there, and you get, once again, mad props from anyone you share power with. heh.

    • Keir Whitaker on September 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm said:

      Judson – Thanks for your comments, great ideas. It’s a fair point about power. I believe we weren’t actually allowed to put power in the auditorium in Miami and only limited points in the lobby. For our London events there’s power on every row.

  5. Always bring extra chargers and camera cords. Someone *will* forget one, even if it’s not you, and you’ll get mad props for an extra iPhone cord (just about every conference I go to, I have let someone borrow one).

    I also always keep a saved twitter search, or find a backchannel IRC, etc. If something is going wrong or you need some help at the conference a backchannel is a good way to communicate with other people at the conference.

    heh, excellent post!

  6. Congratulations on breaking the law by violating the license of Mac OS X! We’ll be in touch.

  7. WebBizDev on September 7, 2009 at 8:50 pm said:

    Oh my gosh. Is this a serious post? And 28 retweets for this crap story? People are just so uncompetitive in the UK.

    Anyway. Keir, you’re saying that ‘Be sure to include your Twitter name and your best promo photo, these will make you much more memorable.’. How come you don’t have a decent photo neither on Thinkvitamin or Twitter? This is such a shame!

    • Keir Whitaker on September 7, 2009 at 9:39 pm said:

      WebBizDev – sorry to hear you didn’t like my light hearted look at getting the most out of a conference. In terms of Twitter avatars I don’t always think a photo is the best option. When you are scrolling through a few hundred tweets at a time it’s hard to distinguish one photo from another. A good example of a Twitter avatar IMO is the Mod target graphic used by @malarkey as it’s very hard to miss.

  8. @Kier – FOWD Bristol will be my first web conference so I’m sure your advice will be very useful. I’m really looking forward to the conference.

    @Yaili – I agree that using a personal photo as your Twitter is important. Moo cards are another option because you can put your photo on one side and contact information on the other.

  9. “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.”

    This is very true and it’s the cause of many disappointments during the conference and pre/after parties.

    “Take plenty of business cards. Be sure to include your Twitter name and your best promo photo, these will make you much more memorable.”

    Very good advice – you can meet so many people during a conference that having a face associated with the right business card is always a plus. I must confess I’m still trying to figure out who some of the business cards I got at dConstruct are from -> guys, please use your photos as your twitter avatars! 🙂

    I’ve also written a blog post about this matter after the latest Future of Web Design, in London: http://webdesignernotebook.com/events/how-to-always-enjoy-a-conference/ Hope it’s useful!

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