Conferences offer one the best environments for industry leaders to get together, teach aspiring professionals and collaborate with intelligent minds from around the world. Between the official panel sessions, break room debates and after-hours discussions, there’s no lack of quality learning opportunities bundled into the price of the conference pass.
But that’s not the real reason why you’re attending. You’re there to meet people. Important people. You don’t even plan on sitting in on most of the talks. Why waste your time learning a thing or two in a boring session when there are are dozens of “influencers” just outside the door waiting for you to flood them with your awesomeness?
You’re the conference suck-up.
To you, networking is the be-all end-all of attending conferences. Learning, listening, participating, collaborating… those are activities for the feeble minded. You already know everything about everything, right? Now’s the time to let everyone know this with brute force. Business cards in hand, you fling them any chance you get – especially towards those higher up on the perceived ladder. Of course, why even waste them at all on people who can’t help you get ahead one bit?
Your conference success depends solely on how many A-listers you can get noticed by. The amount of intrusion you can muster into their discussions. The ability to mention your “it’s like a mix between a photo-blog, social network and bird watching” project as many times as physically possible in a 90 second conversation.
This is a war of attrition. Take no prisoners. All superficial glory. Do you think all the industry superstars you look up to reached their status simply based on talent? Nonsense. You know better. It’s not about bringing value to the table. It’s all about sucking up.
As a blogger, BlogWorld Expo is the holy grail of networking events. Tons of A-listers. Tons of attendees. While you may be the jedi master of fake handshakes locally, realize you’ll be heading to Las Vegas to compete against the very best suckuptologists in the world. Be prepared for cut-throat tactics. Be prepared for casualties. It most definitely will be a dog-eat-dog environment.
What can you do to gain an extra edge on all the other slobber-overdosed networking fiends?
1. Buy the booze.
Not even the straightest edged blogstars can turn down free drinks. It’s as natural to them as cloaked affiliate links. Go with top shelf, though. Remember, their time is money. After downing six Johnnie Walker’s, it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss a joint venture deal. C’mon, you actually think they’d even consider your awful project when they’re sober?
Make sure you shove a dozen business cards in their pocket because there’s no chance in hell they’ll even remember you otherwise the next day. Sure, you may not get much out of it, but at least these rockstars will never forget the name of who got them totally hung over the morning of their important keynote.
2. Don’t just follow. Stalk.
Anyone can exchange fake pleasantries after a conference session. That’s what your competition will likely do. Instead of being part of the suck-up swarm that surrounds speakers after their talks, get guerrilla on their butts. Using your mobile phone, set up a command center to keep tabs on all the important influencers. Twitter, Foursquare, the whole nine yards. If they’re not on your list, consider everyone else as collateral damage.
Show up at breakfast. Show up at dinner. Show up at their hotel room. Call ahead and find out if their hotel stocks translucent shower curtains. It’s a perfect hiding spot to catch them alone. Once you do, shove their best selling book in their chest, mutter something incoherent and pass out. Seeing your half-naked body on their hotel room floor, the rockstar will almost be forced to help you at that point. Either they do or risk 500 other bloggers writing disparaging posts about their “inappropriate business dealings”.
3. Swag it up.
Nothing says you’re the real deal more than useless swag. That’s the secret key to a successful personal brand. T-shirts, stickers, caps, key chains, coffee mugs, mouse pads, candlesticks, arrowheads, car mufflers, tiger leashes and water towers. If you can make it on Vistaprint or CafePress, go for it. Spare no expense.
Nevermind the fact you just started a blog yesterday on Tumblr to share your pointless diatribes about the latest American Idol episode – the only way to make it is to fake it, baby! Bring enough swag to give to every human being within a 50 mile radius. Those A-list superstars would have to be blind not to notice you every step they take that weekend. Scream out your blog’s tagline “I’m going to bloggywood!” every chance you get just for good measure.
4. Photographs and autographs.
There’s no way better to pad a blogstar’s already enormous ego than to request an autograph. Of course, you don’t even have their best-selling book for them to sign since you’ve never actually read it in the first place. Having the least bit on knowledge about the A-lister’s work shouldn’t stop you from needlessly trying to leverage their influence.
Forget the digital camera, though. Bring a Polaroid so you can have them sign a photo on the spot. This way you can bring proof of your awesome sauce back home with you. Do you really care if your brother’s first reaction is “who’s this overweight slob standing next to you?” Remember, for extra bonus face time with the rockstar after taking the photo, make sure you stand near him/her awkwardly for the next 35 minutes without saying a word.
5. Ask lots of questions.
This one separates the true networking ninjas from the vomit-inducing wannabes. To prepare, map out your conference session schedule so you can be present at the end of as many talks as possible. Everyone knows that most speakers only have gas for about 45 minutes until they resort to filling time with Q&A. It’s a perfect opportunity to interject yourself as the center of attention.
Q&A is your time to shine. Raise your hand immediately. Run to the microphone. Spend the first full minute proclaiming how awesome the speaker is. In the next two minutes, ramble on about who you are and where you blog. For the following five minutes, share all your insipid thoughts on why you’re even asking the question in the first place. Forget said question. Now that you’ve completely wasted all the time for anyone else, there’s no person the rockstar will remember other than you!
Jordan Cooper is a 14-year professional stand-up comedian who showcases his sarcastic humor with videos and written rants about blogging, social media & marketing at Not A Pro Blog. Follow his hilarious daily antics on Twitter @NotAProBlog.