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Getting the most of your next tech conference

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

I distinctly remember showing up to Collision in Toronto in 2022. After three years of pandemic-induced screen staring, we were finally back to real-life meet-ups and, boy, the buzz was real.

My playbook for the conference was so far tried and true: chat up a storm, snag a boatload of LinkedIn connections, and bank on some leads.

That year, it didn't go as planned. After countless conversations and amassing 400 new connections, I walked away from Collision 2022 with a single lead. Yeah, just one.

That sting was a wake-up call. I had to switch things up, refine my approach, and get smarter about my conference game plan.

Tech conferences, festivals and networking events are bursting with potential, but step in unprepared, and you're missing out big time. Collision 2023 was my year of redemption, all thanks to a new approach. Let’s explore it so you can succeed where I once failed.

Getting the most of your next tech conference

How to Prepare for a Tech Conference

Reflecting on my Collision 2022 experience, it hit me: my "strategy" was a strategic mess. I tried to be everywhere, talk to everyone, but all I did was end up in aimless chatter, missing out on the real deals.

I'd be in a queue, making small talk, while catching glimpses of the real players. They weren’t just hanging about; they were deeply engrossed in what looked like planned discussions, coffees in hand, sharing lunch tables. Clearly, they came prepared.

So, 2023 had to be different. I pinpointed sectors I wanted to penetrate, identified the movers and shakers I needed to meet, and strategized on the best spots to bump into them. This wasn't just in my head, either; I committed every move to paper, crystallizing it into a concrete strategy.

No longer leaving it to chance, I also reached out and scheduled slots that guaranteed facetime with my targets. I armed myself with a crisp elevator pitch, a set of questions for each discussion, and had my replies all tuned up.

Conference prep isn’t about ironing your dress shirt and printing some extra business cards. It’s about having clarity in purpose, a laser focus on targets, and setting the stage to nail those objectives.

What to Do When You’re at a Tech Conference

At mega-events like Collision, it's easy to get lost in the crowd. I've watched many introverts start a few chats, soon feel out of their depth, and then escape to the shadows of panel discussions.

Getting the most of your next tech conference

If you find yourself retreating to the safety of an audience seat instead of a networking area, that’s a missed opportunity. Here's my battle-tested playbook for networking:

  1. Seize the moment: Spot someone alone or winding down a chat. But, pro-tip: don't crash deep convos.

  2. Build rapport: Kick off with a sharp observation: "Bet you're strategically placed for that upcoming snack break!" or "That tie’s a conversation starter!"

  3. Identify prospects: Ask the classic, "So, what do you do?" At a tech event, anyone can be a door to opportunity.

  4. Build the relationship. Ask: "How did you get into that line of work?" People LOVE to talk about themselves. Give them a sense that you're really interested in what they do.

  5. Pick a path. If you’ve struck gold with a potential lead, they'll be curious about you too. Share your story, and don't forget to connect on LinkedIn to keep the conversation going.

What Not to Do at the Tech Conference

  1. Don't give up easily

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans face hiccups. At one such conference, I felt like a fish out of water, doubting every handshake. Yet, by the end, a chat that began with “I don’t need PR” led to “but I have a friend who does” three weeks later. The lesson? Not all wins are instant; some rewards pop up weeks or even months after the event.

  1. Don’t party too hard

Fast forward to a nighttime networking event. Picture me, trying to tap into my inner social butterfly (truth be told, I was never much of a networking night owl). As I peered over my drink, I saw some folks maybe indulging a bit too much, their professional facades slipping.

While these events, with their pulsating music and strobe lights, might seem like the hub of networking, they're not always the best for genuine connection. Trying to shout your elevator pitch over a thumping bass after four gin and tonics? Not quite the rapport-building I had in mind.

  1. Don’t waste people’s time

Back to those sobering numbers from Collision 2022: one lead from 400 LinkedIn connections. While I lamented about the missed opportunities, a thought struck. It wasn’t just my time – how many of them found our exchange valuable? Maybe I was the mismatch for them. Recognize when a connection isn't symbiotic. Sometimes, the best move is to gracefully pivot elsewhere.

After the Tech Conference

Getting the most of your next tech conference

When Collision 2023 wrapped up earlier this year, the real work for me had only just begun. My LinkedIn was updated with fresh connections, and there wasn't a minute to lose. In the past, these new contacts might have just gathered dust, but this year, I was determined to keep that spark alive. Within hours, I was firing off messages. Simple, genuine notes to people I'd met, reigniting conversations and exploring potential collaborations.

Networking was only half the story. Collision was also a wellspring of new insights. From the future trajectory of AI to emerging tech trends, there was so much I'd picked up. Instead of pocketing these learnings, I gathered my team for a debrief and discussed how we could apply our biggest takeaways to the business.

A tech conference is an invaluable opportunity to network, discover trends, and boost your business's visibility. With meticulous planning, active participation, and post-conference action, you're set to make the most out of any tech gathering.

Ready to stand out at your next tech conference? Let's make it happen. Connect with Mind Meld PR today.


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