There’s no doubt that the PASS Summit is about learning. In just a few days you’ll max out your learning capacity for the week and go home wishing you could take in more! But there’s more to a conference than technology, it’s about people too. Just because you’re not looking for a job or trying to sell a product doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from meeting new people. For most of us meeting people isn’t as easy as mastering the latest bit of technology, so I’ve bundled a few ideas for you!
1. Realize that almost all of us are a bit uncomfortable starting a conversation, but we have no problem engaging after that. Someone has to go first! Take a chance and say hello, knowing that in most cases the person on the other side is going to be grateful that you did.
2. Don’t waste that time waiting for the presentation to start. Introduce yourself to the person seated next time, maybe ask ‘Is this your first time at the Summit?’ or ‘Have you seen this speaker do a presentation before?’.
3. Don’t sit alone at lunch. Find a table with someone sitting alone or a small group and ask if you can join them. Introduce yourself, then relax. See if there is a conversation going on, wait to see if appropriate to join in or just listen.
4. Don’t go back to the hotel after the presentations are done. Visit the after hours page for ideas, or just invite a few people to dinner. Ideally join a group of people that you just met, you can talk to co-workers next week! To be fair, this is probably the hardest thing to figure out. Watch the #sqlpass tag on Twitter for stuff going on as well.
5. Make a list of people you would like to meet. You can find a list of the attendees at http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/na2010/Connect/WhosComing.aspx. Know why you want to meet them and have something ready to say (‘I love your blog/book is a good starter!).
6. Set a goal for meeting people. I set a goal of meeting three new people each day. Once I’ve done that, then I can relax. In practice it’s a rare day when I only meet three people. Ask for a business card, or get an email address or twitter handle so you can follow up afterward.
7. Follow up with your new contacts back home. No, there’s no guarantee that they will respond or that it will ever generate that big job offer. On the other hand, aren’t you a little bit pleased when someone you met follows up with you? Take the time to value people by doing the follow up.
Having trouble getting started? Find an ambassador (wearing a red vest) and ask them to introduce you to someone. Or open a Twitter account and post a note to #sqlpass that you are looking for a group to join for dinner. And to get started, how about coming to the Sunday night meetup if you’re in town early?
Please say hello if you see me during the week, I’d love to meet you!