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Streight: Advice for the conference attendee

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Having recently attended a tech conference dealing with cyber security, data storage, and other IT issues, I thought about some of the things I typically do at these events. I decided to prepare a list of things that can make your attendance more productive.

These tips are designed especially for job seekers, career ladder climbers, and consultants wanting more clients.

(1) Sit up front. This makes it better when Q&A time comes along. Or sit way in the back, even stand in the back, so you can bop around taking photos and getting more coffee without disturbing anybody.

(2) Have plenty of business cards, with your LinkedIn, blog, or website url, to exchange with presenters or attendees. Obtain business cards from others and send them relevant news stories, articles praising their company, your own advice, etc., as appropriate. Nobody does this kind of follow-up. Don't pester or act needy. Just keep presenting yourself as someone with expertise, authentically and honestly. It's easy to impress when most people are not self-promotional.

(3) Bop around taking photos of audience and speaker, from a variety of angles, with a fancy camera (never a cell phone camera) and people may think you're with the local media. Explain "I'm a citizen journalist. These photos will be on Facebook and GooglePlus."

(4) ALWAYS be the first to ask a question when the presenter asks if there are questions. Because they may only be able to get to two or three questions, you need to be first in line with hand waving in the air.

(5) Ask the SMARTEST question, one related to your niche expertise if possible, or at least something that makes you sound intelligent and articulate.

(6) Ask questions from the client or enterprise side whenever possible, so you'll have something to take back to your clients and colleagues that they can use immediately and fruitfully.

(7) By asking expert questions, showing off your knowledge, you'll attract the attention of presenters, event handlers, emcees, colleagues, and possible employers or clients. They may even come up and approach you after the meetings, asking for your business card. Your little performance in the conference chamber was impressive. You have become "someone it's probably good to know." You have become a little bit more marketable, easier to hire.

Be sure to tell them exactly what you do, in no uncertain terms. Don't exaggerate, but do present yourself in glowing terms that accurately represent your skills and what you can achieve for a company.

(8) ALWAYS take selfies with the famous or important people. I have never yet asked permission and got turned down. Just going up to them and saying, "Selfie?" in a mischievous or playful tone of voice, is a good way to get that photo you want.

(9) Grab as much swag (promotional novelties, advertising specialty items: pens, mouse pads, booklets, charts, white papers, etc.) to give to your clients, employer, and colleagues. Be sure to bring a briefcase, although you can usually find swag bags for free at the event.

(10) You want to become "that guy (or gal),” the one who has connections, the one who has met in person the heavy hitters in your field. The one who is curious about many aspects related to your field of expertise. When a situation arises that is not in your specific skill set, you may know someone who does that type of work, someone to whom you can ask questions or refer others.

(11) See every seminar, corporate vendor event, conference, lecture, fair, etc. as a terrific self-promotional and photo-documenting opportunity. Never go just to "enjoy" or "learn" or show up because you feel (or are) obligated. Take good notes and try to absorb as much as you can, but don't be entirely passive. Realize this event is an opportunity for you to perform and impress.

(12) As soon as the event is over, hurry and post photos with funny or wise commentary, on Facebook, Ello, G+, Tumbler, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other communication channels. The more you spread the news about your ongoing involvement with leading edge technology and tech personalities, the better your chances of getting hired or gaining new clients.


About the Author
Steven Streight is a man of many skills. He’s a talented writer, web content developer, internet marketing consultant and photographer. He’s a trustee on the Peoria Historical Society, a member of SCORE Peoria and the author of the Peoria technology history book, “Bicycle Fever.” In his downtime, he’s hangs out with his beloved Min Pin and tries to get some rest. Considering how involved he is in the community, it sounds like he could use as much as he can get.