How to Survive a Tech Conference

How to Survive a Tech Conference

Last week, I attended SYS-CON’s Cloud Computing Expo in Santa Clara, California to support clients CloudSigma and Interxion. While the event was a complete success with steady crowds at the booths, quality conversations and ample product announcements, it was also four, fully exhausting days. Being on your feet all day, continually giving the same explanations and missing your regular routine can really wear you out. So, naturally, over the years, I’ve developed my “How to Survive a Tech Conference” guide. The following tips have gotten me through every conference, both large and small, from Interop to Structure, and beyond.

  1. Find an Outlet – just like at the airport, power outlets are in high demand at trade shows and there’s nothing more important than staying connected whether via smartphone, tablet or laptop. Scout out the power outlets near your expo floor location so you can plug in when you need to. As trade show networks can get overloaded more quickly than normal, batteries often deplete that much faster, so having a power source is key. If you’re really smart and have the space, bring a power strip – your clients and other power hungry attendees will love you.
  2. Bring a Snack – hunger is one of the leading causes of energy loss and mood deflation. In order to stay lively and look like someone people want to talk to, be sure to keep your body fueled. A banana, trail mix or even a piece of dark chocolate mid-day goes a long way, especially when you’re likely straying from your normal eating habits with meals out and a higher caloric intake.
  3. Take a Walk – not just around the show floor for SWAG (stuff we all get), but actually outside. Fresh air, just like a snack, helps keep you fresh and energized. The recycled air within a trade show exhibition hall gets stale quickly and can feel repressive. Since trade shows are often in good destinations, take advantage of the scenery and grab a quick breath of air.
  4. Wear Flats – if you’re a woman, believe me, your feet and back will thank you later. You may not have the height or strut you’re used to, but after standing all day, those 4” stilettos will be quickly relegated to the back of the closet. At the very least, keep the heels to 2” or less, or, better yet, pack a pair of flats in your bag for downtime or longer walks.
  5. Weed out Looters – at every conference there seems to be a whole contingent of attendees who are just there for the SWAG. In order to avoid launching into a full-scale explanation of your company to someone who isn’t the least be interested in anything except your free giveaway, there are a few key phrases to adopt, including, “Are you interested in learning more about the company?” and “Feel free to take an information sheet and let me know if you have any questions.” This helps make the initial step towards a conversation, but puts the ball in their court in terms of level of interest, which is key when you’re having hundreds of similar conversations all day long.
  6. Find Me Time – whether it’s just 10 minutes to change before dinner or an hour for an afternoon coffee break, it’s important to have some time to yourself. Just relaxing and taking a few deep breaths can make a big difference. It’s also important to have a few moments to catch up on emails from the office. Knowing the mound of emails to sift through when you return is a bit more manageable is always a good feeling and can help keep your mind focused on the present.
  7. Bring Cards – business cards that is. And, once you’ve grabbed one stack, go back and grab another because people always seem to run out of business cards at events. Networking is one of the biggest components of a trade show and you don’t want to miss out on a big opportunity or introduction just because you forgot enough cards. Likewise, to keep track of other people’s business cards, there are handy smartphone apps that will help you capture all pertinent information and save paper – win-win!

These tips have helped me over the years to maintain a successful event with a bit of a sanity check from time to time. Of course, the value of a good night’s sleep can never be underestimated, and, when combined with this useful tech trade show guide, can be a life saver! What other tips would you recommend for tech conference attendees? Perhaps keeping a full bottle of water at all times or leaving enough time between meetings for a sit-down lunch? Hopefully you’ll keep whatever works for you in mind at your next big event!


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