Last September I joined about 10,000 people at Inbound in Boston. By far, that has been the largest conference I have even attended. Because I find more intimate settings better for getting to know people, the challenge for me was how to shrink such a potentially daunting experience into parts with greater human interaction.
In addition to the privilege and joy of sharing comments on how to become a Conversation Agent, these are a few random things I did to scale the experience that made it enjoyable and productive:
- commit to a track — the day I took the stage for the bold talk (see below), I decided to stay with the crowd that was in the room. I found many had taken that approach and so I was able to engage in conversations over the topics and over time. The result: I made a few fast friends.
- select the after conference socials — instead of waiting to see what was going on — occasionally this leads to a pleasant surprise, most of the time you end up letting chance make the selection — I picked opportunities to reconnect with friends. The result: it was really good to talk with many people I have know for years instead of just passing in the hallways.
- spend time with a few people, deeply — this matches my philosophy on networking. Since I dislike the roaming eye thing when someone is talking with me — though I do understand and accept they have different approaches and they may work for them — I look to avoid being that person to others. This led to a few very interesting theme-based conversations. The result: opening the door to future collaborations.
- take the time to meet the exhibitors — I admit I have not always done that at events. However, Inbound was set up in a way that pulled you into that area of the conference. The result: I learned about a couple of useful services I was comfortable recommending.
- watch the keynotes from the back — this was the exact opposite of what I have done at Content Marketing World where I used my school tactic and looked to sit in the first couple of rows. Inbound was much bigger and I do better in open spaces than in crowds. Because I was by the entrance, I could see everyone coming in. The result: a serendipitous reunion with a couple of people I would have otherwise not seen at all.
- find a way to thank the organizing team — even if it's just by helping keep the sessions engaging with your body language, get in on time (hint: before the sessions start). The HubSpot team did an amazing job and connecting with many attendees, especially the fabulous Laura Fitton (@pistachio.) I was only sorry I did not spend more time with Joe Chernov (@jchernov) The result: good karma is a worthy investment.
More ideas in 21 things you can do at a conference.