Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tip for Networking at Conferences: Be a Speaker!

Most people don't realize it, but I am incredibly shy -- they don't realize it because I've also spent a long time being shy, and have developed various "workarounds" because I know that it's healthy for me to interact with people and that it's not healthy for me to be a hermit (though tempting).

One of the situations where I find it quite easy for my shy-ness to take over is at conference, where I'm surrounded by hundreds of people that I don't know, and I think perhaps that some of them would be interesting conversational partners, but I haven't the slightest idea who, and how to approach them.

So, I work around it -- by being a speaker. By speaking at a conference, I make it so that there is atleast a room full of people that now have an excuse to talk to me, and I have something to talk with them about. That's a room-full more of people than when I was wandering around aimlessly through the halls before the talk!

Now, I know, it's not possible to be a speaker at every conference you go to. But, many conferences (atleast the cool ones) offer lightning talk sessions which can be signed-up for on the day of the event -- and many people have atleast one interesting or funny topic they can talk about for 5 minutes.

Whether you're a pre-slotted speaker or a lightning talk speaker, try to get your speaking slot on the first day. First, of course, that will mean you'll be able to relax after your talk and enjoy more of the conference, and second, that means that the room-ful of people will know of you sooner, and have more time to strike up a conversation with you.

And, hey, if any of you ever see me wandering around a conference (or sneaking into a bathroom to hide from all the intimidating people), stop by and say "hi". :)