Attending a conference like Google Next offers an incredible opportunity to learn about the latest advancements, collect case studies and insights from others in your industry, and connect with other cloud technology enthusiasts…
That is, if you actually talk to them.
Everyone reaches a point of saturation when surrounded by thousands of strangers—for those introverts among us, that might occur within the first five minutes, but even the most outgoing party animals will get tired of making small talk at some point. It’s worth coming up with a game plan ahead of time so you can maximize meaningful interactions at a conference.
We’ve put together a few tips to help you make the most of your Google Next conference experience before, during, and after the event. Keep in mind that while some of these pointers are specific to Google Next, you can apply many of them to pretty much any conference.
Yes, the sessions, workshops, and keynotes are going to be awesome. Yes, you’ll get to learn about the latest developments in the Google Cloud product world. But don’t forget about all the other attendees—this is, after all, a group of 20,000 potential customers, employees, business contacts, or friends who will be excited to talk about the latest in cloud technology. (And can you really say that about your current friends?)
Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, says, “Today, probably even more than ever before, networks are a key form of social capital for achieving goals in both your professional and personal lives.” So how do you maximize networking opportunities at a conference? Here are a few ideas.
- Do some research upfront to identify some speakers, vendors, and attendees that you’d like to connect with.
Tap your network to see if anyone can introduce you ahead of time. Even if you don’t have a warm introduction, you can reach out to the speakers via social media to let them know you’re looking forward to attending their session.
- Use this opportunity to strengthen your existing connections.
If you met someone at Next ‘17, another conference, or just have some other loose connection, make plans to meet up for coffee. (FYI, there’s a robot barista at Café X in The Metreon, a 3-minute walk from Moscone Center. We think “robot barista” is a pretty good conversation starter, don’t you?)
- Don’t be afraid to put together your own gathering.
Check out some of our recommended San Francisco spots here, book a table for a small group, and invite a couple of your new friends to join you.
- Bring business cards!
Yes, this is a tech conference, but there’s something refreshing about having a physical artefact, and it makes it much easier to connect with people after the conference.
- If you’re on the introverted side, some simple shifts in perspective can help you become a boss at networking.
Look for ways that you can help or connect others (that way you’re not always in the position of initiating the same type of small talk). It’s also useful to have a mindset of curiosity. Learn as much as you can about the person you’re sitting next to or standing in line in with. Ask enough questions and you’re bound to find some common ground!
Actually, we'll let Jenna and Darryl tell you their favorite conference tips!
There are conflicting schools of thought on whether you should use your laptop and/or smartphone during conferences. Many people find it anti-social and off-putting. Research also shows that taking notes by hand is a more effective way of remembering what you learn. But, since it’s a tech conference in San Francisco, having and using technology is inevitable.
Here are some tips on how to do tech right at Google Next.
- If you’re going to be active on social media, be sure to use and follow the #GoogleNext18 hashtag.
It’ll be a great way to be a part of the conversation and connect with fellow attendees and speakers.
- If you decide you are going to be using your phone and laptop, be sure to bring your chargers and extra battery packs.
It’s no fun to run out of juice in the morning and not be able to find your way to the lunch spot you picked out ahead of time.
- The ultimate power move: in addition to bringing your own chargers, bring a power strip. (Thanks to Skillcrush for this recommendation!)
Outlets are always at a premium at conferences, so by expanding the available spots, you’ll be setting yourself up to make instant friends!
The fun doesn’t have to end when Next ‘18 draws to a close. Here are a few ways to keep a good thing going.
- After the conference ends, go through all your notes.
Add extra context or insights, make a to-do list of follow-up items, and spend some time processing the major takeaways and what your next steps will be.
- Offer to spread the knowledge to your coworkers.
Whether you simply share a Google doc with your notes, put together a lunch-and-learn for anyone who’s interested, or give a formal presentation to your department, look for ways to make sure you’re not the only one at your company who benefits from your attendance.
- Stay in touch with those connections you worked so hard to make!
Invite people to connect on LinkedIn, send them a quick email (here are a few subject line tips and LinkedIn-specific social selling tips) to let them know you enjoyed meeting them, and follow up on any points you discussed or reiterate how cool the robot barista was—basically look for ways to solidify the connection.
- Curate conference highlights to share in a blog post or via social media
Check out the conference hashtag and gather some of the tweets, LinkedIn posts, photos, and videos that sum up the key moments and insights, and add in your own take. Your marketing team might be thrilled to include it on your company blog, or you can publish it on LinkedIn or Medium.