How To Hack Conferences and Meetups

Jun 07, 2011

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I’ll admit it, I am a conference junkie. Traveling is my thing, and
meeting new inspiring people who are on the same journey I am on helps
to keep me in good spirits. It took me a while to get the stamina to
truly enjoy networking, but it is a skill I have developed over time.
Here are some tips that may help you.

HOW TO GET INTO EVENTS

**
**

So you want to get into that big conference, eh? Over the past few
years, I have discovered a few ways that you can get in for free.

Stay Up To Date- Keep up to date on the events in your
field.Subscribing to the Startup
Digest
(a weekly email
list of the top events, curated by locals) in various cities is a solid
path to finding good local
events.Lanyrd.com is by far the
best for conferences, as it lists upcoming conferences with the speakers
who will be there. Search through for events in your area, or for events
featuring people you are interested in meeting or
following.Plancast.com is another
good resource which lists the events your friends may be attending in
the future. Following theinfluentialpeople you want to meet is another
way to find out.

Be Useful - Find ways to help the event organizer in exchange for
free tickets. Many of the organizers are scrappy entrepreneurs
themselves and will work something out with you if you are equally
scrappy in helping them. You could photograph the event, volunteer for
some behind-the-scenes work, or help with any of the organizers other
concerns. Meeting other volunteers has been the most rewarding part of
participating in conferences for me, so I would suggest doing that if
you can.

Find Discounts- For most bigger events there are discounts that
are used to entice people in specific communities. Dig around and you
might be able to find these

Attend As Press - This is not easy to get. There are press passes
for many events as well, as long as you can provide proof that you are a
part of a reputable media outlet. It may be worth it to participate in
content creation for a press outlet, as most web companies today have
some sort of content marketing strategy anyway. Consider it practice.

HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THE EVENTS

As great as conferences can be, you aresacrificingwork time in order to
attend. Here are some tips to get the most out of the event before you
go and while you are there.

Research Speakers-Find out who is speaking and contact them before
the event if possible. Set up times to meet up for an interview or a
quick 5-10 minute chat during breaks.

***Sit In The Right Place -***Depending on your goals you may want to
sit in strategic areas. One may be next to the mic so you can jump up
and ask questions. Another may be next to the stage so you can catch a
speaker when they are coming off stage. You could also sit next to the
press if there are media outlets that you want to connect to.

***Ask Questions -***After TechCrunch Disrupt, I was know as that guy
who asked Dennis Crowley and
Fred Wilson questions after their
panels. This is not only helpful in getting great advice from great
investors and entrepreneurs, but it is also a chance to let people know
exactly who you are and what you are interested in. People interested in
the music industry have contacted me after hearing my specific questions
about the industry, so this is a trick to getting some inbound requests,
instead of searching through the sea of people to find those who are
most impactful to your goals. It is your change to ask a compelling
question that might help you stand out from the crowd.

HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF EACH CONVERSATION

***Give -***The problem most people have in their conversations is that
they don’t listen nearly enough. Waiting for your chance to talk is not
equivalent to engaging in conversation. Listen and ask questions that
can help probe into their struggles, and give some feedback.

***Wear Something Interesting -***I try to wear my
Songsicle
shirtas often as possible, but
anything that grabs attention can help give others an icebreaker to
start a conversation. People tend to have trouble recognizing me in
person unless I am wearing a fedora like in my
twitter profile. At
MicroConf I was the exploding
hot sauce guy. In fact, peacocking works well for all areas of life :-)

***Use Tools -***There are many tools out now
likeHashable,Sonar,
and Sumazi that help you connect with
people at these events. Use Hashable to immediately follow up with
someone as soon as you meet them. Sonar and Sumazi will help you find
people to connect with before and during an event. Twitter is still huge
for me in continuing with some light conversations with people after
meeting up with them. Monitor thehashtagsfor the event and converse with
those who you may not even have met at the event.

HOW TO FIND A PLACE TO STAY

Greg Pollack has
this down to a science:
http://www.screenr.com/QOd

I would also highly suggest AirBnB, as
I found my partner for
Songsicle while we were
staying at the same AirBnB house. Someday I’ll write the story up.

Gtrot.com is another site that lets you
find friends to stay with and travelers to connect with.

Another site to check is
FirstClassFlyer.com,
suggested by Ramit Sethi
of Earn1k.com

HIRE SOMEONE TO DO IT FOR YOU

Maybe all of this stuff is too much for you. You may have a different
personality type than the person that might implement these tricks. Or
you are too busy dealing with the details of running a company to worry
about traveling and spreading your message and product worldwide. In
this case, if you want to focus on doing what you are good at and let
others handle the networking and evangelizing, hire someone to do it for
you. They can do the work to get key influencers using your product. You
can sign up for early access to some of these evangelists at
OnDemandEvangelist.com

What are your conference tricks?

(Thanks to Mariya Yao
and John Exley for
their tips)

Frank Denbow

Founder. Dancer. Entrepreneur.

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