Going to the PASS Summit this November? Let's fast forward and pretend it's November 2. You've made it to Seattle and are at the convention center for the welcome reception. While there you spot so-and-so whose blog you read or so-and-so who you follow on Twitter. You'd like to say something to them so you walk up and introduce yourself. Do you: a) strike up a meaningful conversation and finish by exchanging contact information…or: b) pause awkwardly for a few moments, struggling to figure out what to say next, only to walk away empty handed?
I'd be willing to bet that most people (including me) stand a fair chance of having answered the latter. In this day and age we tend to be pretty good at tweeting, texting, and emailing, but for many holding a conversation can be difficult. Unlike email which gives you time to articulate your thoughts (or delete them before hitting the send button!) on your own terms and time, holding a conversation is an engaging exercise that requires you to be quick on your feet. I've been in many circumstances where I've completely fumbled my way through the conversation, even with people who I know fairly well. It happens to the best of us.
There are a lot of people I know I want to meet at PASS this year and probably just as many more I'll want to talk to once I'm there. What do I say to break the ice? How do I remember their name? How do I keep the conversation interesting? This is PASS, the place for people who work with SQL Server to see and be seen. I'd rather not find myself in the middle of those long awkward pauses so I'm going to do something to help hedge my bets. Right before this year's welcome reception there's a special 2 hour workshop held by Don Gabor called "Networking to Build Business Contacts". I'm going and I think you should too.
$60 gets you into the session plus a signed copy of Don's book How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends. Not sure if it's worth it? Read Andy Warren's 6 part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6) chronicling his personal coaching sessions over the phone. I happen to know Andy personally and I've seen him put Don's advice into action. Trust me, $60 is a steal for the kind of ROI that knowing how to hold a good conversation will net you.
The bonus is that not only will I pick up some valuable skills that I hope will last well beyond the conference but I'll get to meet some of the people on my list who are also going to the workshop (e.g. Tom LaRock and Grant Fritchey). If you're going to PASS and you care about building your professional network, I strongly encourage you to sign up too. If you do, make it a point to find me and say hello. Lucky for us we'll both know a few tricks to hold a great conversation.