We are now 5-weeks from this years PASS Summit. It’s time to start getting ready for the event. Hopefully, you have already registered for the summit. If not, let’s get that out of the way first by clicking on the image below…
With that done, the hardest part of preparing for PASS is complete. Everything from here on in is gravy. But you still need to do a little preparation for that gravy. PASS is a two-fold event, one-part education and another part networking. For the rest of this post, let’s get you prepared for the networking portion.
As members of an IT profession, networking is not always our strong suit. Quite frankly, I’m terrible at it. Some people are good with walking up to a complete stranger and going, “Hey, glad to meet you. I’m Bob. Who are you and what do you do?” For many of us, this isn’t the easiest think to do. There are, though, things we can do to pimp out our ability to network and get connected to people with less stress and effort.
First, if you aren’t on LinkedIn, get on it. This is a professional focused social network that can be invaluable to getting connect to peers and recruiters. It has many similarities to FaceBook, but without the games and fan pages. This is a great place to upload and maintain your professional work history. And for many of us a great place to network with member of the local, national, and international community of SQL Server professionals.
If you don’t have this, I highly recommend getting it put together before PASS. It doesn’t take long and you’ll be able to work on it over time to start building and rebuilding connections to people you’ve worked with in the past and present.
One thing that sometimes concerns people, or their bosses, is broadcasting your resume through a social netowkr. Don’t let this concern you too much. This is definitely not the same as putting yourself up on Monster, Dice, or some other job board. LinkedIn is about the network of people that you’ve met professionally and the opportunity not to lose those contacts. With this setup you will be able to start tapping that network more to find people that you can tap into with future issues and needs.
This should be a silly question, but it’s not. Last year, I heard that only about 7% of attendees were on twitter. Did you know that there are hundreds of SQL Server professionals using twitter on a daily basis. There is a living, breathing community of SQL Server developers, DBAs, MVPs, mentors, and Microsoft employees just hanging out within a 140-character question from you.
For those that don’t know what twitter is, it’s a micro-blogging social network. Where you can spout off about your daily life in 140-characters or less. But in those 140-characters you can find out about what other SQL Server professionals are working on. You can get insight into who they are. And then you can comment back and start to get to know some of those you might eventually meet at the PASS Summit.
All well and good, but what are some of the more practical uses for twitter:
No need to head back to the hotel at night because with twitter you can find out where other people are and get connected to them right away. Want to know more about twitter – read all of these posts.
Bring your cards! Give them to everyone you meet. You’d be surprised how many people forget about doing this. Don’t be shy because no one feels awkward about getting a business card – we just sometimes feel awkward giving them. When you are talking to people… ask for their cards.
If you don’t have cards, go ahead and order them now. You have plenty of time between now and the summit to get them. I use moo for my mini-cards. But you can get them almost anywhere or print them yourself if you’d like.
Make sure you add in who you are and how people can contact you. Add your URL. Add twitter. Add a bit of your self to be a little memorable.
When you get to the PASS Summit, you’re going to be ready to network. Even by preparing, your still going to need to be a little extroverted to get the networking going. To help, remember this… that person ahead of you that isn’t talking to anyone else. That person is just as scared to reach out and talk as you are. Make it a joke and break the ice.
Make sure you give out your business card like it’s going out of style. Divide up your business cards into a stack for each day and make it a goal to hand out that many each day. If you hear a good speaker, tell them you would like to chat afterwards and give them your card and get there’s. Let’s face it – for most of us, if we can jump to e-mail it’s easier to get around the anxiety of meeting strangers.
With some success, after the summit you will have a nice pile of business cards. When you get them, take a moment to write something about the conversation on the card. Something that will help you remember who the person is and what you talked about. Because after the summit you are going to be talking to them.
When you get home, take out all of the cards. Add them to your contact list. Follow them on twitter. Link to them on LinkedIn. And then send them an e-mail – remind them what you talked about and follow-up on that. A few of the connections you make might be the source for a future answer to a difficult problem you’ll be faced with.
What else would you do to prepare for networking at the PASS Summit?