Like most of Berlin, the Jobspotting gang are attending Tech Open Air this week. Conferences are an excellent way to learn, to network, to share knowledge and to have a damned good time while you’re at it. But if you’re not used to how it rolls – or even if you are – it can be hard to know where to start, which talks to attend, who you should talk to, and how to approach mingling if you’re not really au fait with the subtle art of networking. Here are a few pointers to help you make the most of any conference.
1. Make a hitlist
At conferences, there’s an astounding variety of talks, events, meetups and people all vying for your attention. But there’s no need to get overwhelmed! Do yourself a favour by checking out the itinerary beforehand to identify the events and talks that genuinely interest you, or could potentially teach you something. Check out the roster of speakers and make a list of the people that you’d like to hear speak or to meet. By having a clear hitlist, you’ll be less likely to miss out on anything or be mind-boggled by it all!
2. Distill each talk
Take a pen and paper with you, and make a note of interesting quotes, information, people, sites etc that you should look up later. At the end of each talk, take a second to distill each talk down to one main point that you can take away with you. Given the sheer amount of information that you’ll be taking in, it’s natural to be a little bowled over. So take that precious moment, ask yourself what you learned, and write down a pearl of wisdom that you can squirrel away to think about in more detail later.
3. Prioritise people
With any big professional event, your priority should always be on the people. Sure, attend talks and soak up knowledge, but relationships are what great careers are built on. Prioritise some speakers you’d like to talk to, have business cards or contact details at the ready and then just stay open to any potential conversations that might arise. You never know who you might run into!
4. Don’t be a slave to your phone
You may have promised to live-tweet, or you may be expecting an important email, but as much as you can, try not be a phone-zombie. Looking open and engaging is an easy way to meet people who might be put off if you’re glued to a 4-inch screen. Sure, Tweet and Instagram and email away, but just be aware of who’s in the room, and make sure to look up and seem approachable as much as possible.
5. Follow up
Once you’ve met so many interesting people, it would be a shame to let all these potential opportunities slide. The day after the conference, email or Tweet the people you consider important and continue the conversation. Don’t ask for favours straight away. Spend some time cultivating the relationship, and maybe down the line you can help each other out.
6. Have a good time
Sure, you’re at a conference to learn, share knowledge, gain visibility, and meet people who could potentially open doors for you. But you know what else? You’re also there to have fun! So don’t be so focused on introducing yourself to all the big-hitters in the room, and just have a good time. Attend the party, have a dance, and talk to people you click with. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break, have a breather and re-enter the fray when you’re ready. Enjoy it!