Hate Networking? Three Things to Try at Your Next Conference

By Meghann Wooster posted 01-23-2012 11:12


Before I joined Laserfiche, I worked at an IT research and consulting firm in the Boston area. Each year, we put on a number of educational workshops. There are two things in particular that I remember about these events: 

  • We put toys on the table. 
  • There was a ridiculous amount of food.

The toys were always a hit. After all, who doesn’t enjoy playing with Lego?

The toys gave the kinesthetic learners something to do while absorbing the workshop content, and they also made a great ice breaker. Instead of retreating to their Blackberries, tablemates frequently spent breaks and downtime building castles, trains and rocket ships together.

The food, too, was useful for promoting networking. When you’re breaking bread with someone, you generally strike up a conversation.

I bring this up because the Laserfiche Institute Conference is coming up later this week, and more than 1,600 people are registered to attend. The scale of this event, of course, is much different than the 30-person workshops my old firm hosted, but it’s entirely possible to come away from a large event such as Empower 2012 with valuable new connections.

Networking Tips and Tricks 

  1. Leave your laptop, tablet and smartphone in your hotel room. Personally, I find it difficult to be disconnected for more than an hour or two at a time (what if there’s a fire that needs dousing back at the office?), but I’m much more apt to strike up a conversation with someone I don’t know if my inbox isn’t weighing heavy in my pocket.
  2. Sit with strangers. It’s always tempting to stick close to the folks you know when you’re at a large conference. Conversations with new people can be stilted, and it’s often more comfortable to sit with your own colleagues. To ease the awkwardness, Thom Singer, an author who was interviewed for a recent CIO article, recommends attending keynote speeches. He says, “Asking ‘What did you think about that keynote speaker? I thought he made some great comments about X, Y and Z,’ is a much better conversation starter than ‘How's the conference going for you?’” And, of course, don’t be shy about inviting speakers or anyone else you think you can learn from to have coffee, lunch or a post-conference phone call with you.
  3. Share your swag. If you pick up a fun tchotchke from one of the conference exhibitors, break it out at lunch or while you wait for your next session to start. Playing with toys makes you more approachable and gives other people a great opening topic when striking up a conversation with you.

#Networking #LaserficheInstituteConference #tipsandtricks #ThomSinger #HowtoGettheMostOutofITConferences