This week I'm going to attend Slush, a two-day startup and tech event of over 20,000 visitors. This is my plan for making the most out of the event.
Last time I visited Slush was four years ago. It was a great experience. I had fun, I met new people, and I picked up bunch of stuff from the talks. However, there were also moments when the dark event space filled with colored lights and lasers, noise, and the overwhelming amount of people was a little too much.
It's also not just the space that makes me anxious. I'm hoping to meet people and make connections. The introvert in me is not happy about this objective. As is the case with all networking, he is worried that the mingling is going to be unpleasant and futile.
To deal with these real challenges, I present my four-step plan for Slush (or any other big conference):
1. Make a schedule
I have scouted the talks I want to see and marked them in my daily agenda. I know that I can't fully avoid the disorientation that comes with large event spaces, but I can make a plan for where I want to be and what time. I can try my best to avoid decision making during the event days.
If you can limit the amount of decisions you make in a day, you can try to reduce decision fatigue. A reduction in decision fatigue is an increase in overall energy levels.
2. Take breaks to recharge
What do you do when you are feeling exhausted? You rest. You take a break to regain your strength.
I don't have to be talking to people and listening to talks the whole time. Most importantly, I also don't have to be in the event space for the full 8 hours. It's possible for me to have my breaks outside of the conference. I can hit the pause button for all the action.
There's a library within a walking distance from Slush. It's the perfect resting place. I can recharge myself by reading or just gathering myself in peace and quiet.
3. Prepare questions
This step is about networking. It's about preparing myself for starting conversations and keeping them up.
The key to great conversations is to showcase your interest to other people. If you want to be interesting, you first have to become interested.
So how do you generate that interest? You ask questions that aren't leading or that have no ulterior motives. You ask questions that are about getting to know the other person in a real way.
If you meet a startup founder or a person starting out with their project, ask them how they got in to the space. Ask non-founders if there is something interesting going on at their workplace. You can go even more generic: ask people what's going on in their lives or how their weeks started off.
4. Define goals
Define what a good conference experience looks like. How many talks do you want to see or how many people do you want to connect with?
My goal is to have three enjoyable discussions with different people and listen to two truly interesting talks each day. That is what success looks like to me. I don't want to leave the conference thinking if I should have pushed harder to get more out. I want there to be a point where I can be satisfied with my efforts to network and pick out good talks.
If you also struggle with networking and conferences, I hope this plan can help you. And I hope to see you at Slush!