Industry Analyst & Strategist
With the biggest non-WordCamp WordPress event in just a few days, many folks who are new to the extra large conference experience are asking a lot of questions. The obvious tips, which apply to any size conference, still hold. Plan and schedule in advance, hydrate, and then really hydrate, get sleep, enjoy the parties – but not like it’s 1999. Visit the booths. Ask questions. But how do you network when you don’t know anyone?
When you first went to a small event, say a WordPress or WooCommerce meetup, you were probably alone. You were probably greeted, asked to introduce yourself, and generally made to feel welcome. For all of the best efforts by large conference organizers, once you get into the 5000+ attendees, that just can’t happen. However in this ever shrinking world, I can almost guarantee that you will know someone. Scour attendee lists and sponsorships. If you don’t know someone directly, you may indirectly, and can reach out ahead of time. Find or make that conference buddy. It’s so much easier to mingle, escape, and relax when you are not feeling like a fish out of water. In fact, there has been a great thread on Post Status #hosting Slack going over everything from scheduling meetings to staying hydrated. This is perfect conference buddying.
Wait, you’re already the pro? Be that buddy, you know the lay of the land, where to get business done and where to unwind. Being a conference mentor can reap huge personal and professional rewards so don’t shy away from guiding a newbie. Make introductions where you can, introduce by name, title, and type of business. Then walk away, your work is done.
What do you do? This will be the first question 99% of the time. Have a plan for answering, have a personal battle card, a company battle card, and a service/product battle card. Indeed has a good rundown on battle cards, and there are a number of resources out there to help you flesh them out. In short a battle card is a preparation technique to focus on a goal(s) and not be left stumbling for words.
Another key to preparation is scheduling your days. Find the must session and attend them, find time to bump into people in the hallway track, but most importantly, try scheduling meetings ahead of time. At these large conferences people are swamped, harried, and working. Your work is to be a part of their work. You can also make plans for the evenings, grab a dinner with your conference buddies. The networking will flow as a few extras attend.
In-person conferencing is the most valuable networking you can partake in, with more and more remote work you are rarely getting the opportunities to connect face-to-face. From years of experience, a single 20 minute meeting can cut through weeks, if not months, of Slack/Email/Zoom drudgery.
Make the most of it!