Knowledge is pervasive on the internet, but intelligence is not. That’s why I like meeting new people at conferences. You meet people who have taken their knowledge and applied it intelligently. This ‘humanized knowlege’ is difficult to find elsewhere, although Quora is a good attempt.
I am told I’m more social than I think I am. So I thought I’d try to write up some tips for conference goers to help make conferences fun, to go beyond impersonally passing out business cards. Let it be known, I’m social for a geek, not a normal!
Last week I was at E3, and this week I was in San Francisco at the same time as WWDC, hanging at a couple peripheral events. I was initially going to write my notes on E3, but I felt that it would’ve been overall too negative. I then found myself in San Francisco, having an absolutely great time. It wasn’t really a conference, it was a ‘showcializing’ experience which contrasted against the impersonal press behemoth that was E3.
But first, E3
After leaving E3, I was pretty let down. I went hoping to really celebrate making games, meet others who loved making games, and have nerdy conversations I can’t have anywhere else. Instead I saw a lot of boobs and ‘splosions. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some boobs and ‘splosions. But, I find it annoying when you are being completely bombarded with them at all angles with no reason. It was Michael Bay in video game form.
So I left E3 a bit sad about the direction of the industry, and I didn’t want to post anything. Then I saw this post from the editor of Gamasutra and this on Kotaku, and realized, hey, maybe it wasn’t just me being a curmudgeon E3 virgin.
Sadly, it seems E3 has little in common with events like GDC, PAX, or Casual Connect, and more to do with one-way communication with the press. E3 is the conference equivalent of a PR guy with a megaphone. How can you really get much out of an event like this?
#showcializing at WWDC
Then this week, I flew in to San Francisco to ‘showcialize’ during the WWDC event. I didn’t have a WWDC ticket, and split a hotel with a friend. It was amazing, compared to the previous week.
Because I had no ticket, I went to The Box for Indie Dev Lab and watched the keynote alongside a group of geeks in a conference room. I met a good number of game developers who I shared similar interests with. I bugged a Zombie Gunship developer how they did the night vision effect. I asked Saurik if he’d jailbreak my phone. I met Dave Taylor, developer of cult classic Abuse, and all-around talented guy. Among many other fantastic people!
During my time in SF, I was able to go to so many peripheral WWDC events it was staggering. Crashlytics party. Appsterdam at Stackmob’s office. Spotify party at IGN’s office. Touch Arcade WWDC party. I wasn’t at a conference, yet somehow I was meeting more game developers than I did at E3 a week earlier!
Tips for Showcializing
So how do you ‘showcialize’? And is it possible to find a word that is easier to say?
Edges are more interesting.
First, don’t bother too much with the conference in general. The main thing is to find the interesting peripheral events. For example I may be going to this year’s Casual Connect and this page here has a list of great events to go to. Last year Inside Social Games had a party at the W. Finding conferences with a great number of peripheral events will allow you to focus less on milling around the conf floor and seeing presentations, and more on personal connections.
Utilize Co-working spaces
Coworking spaces sometimes have special events that go along with the conference, or companies will open their doors. These are great places to meet people. It’s important to understand tho, people are actually attempting to work at coworking spaces, and it’s not a good idea to shove business cards in front of everyone.
If you run a coworking space, it can be helpful to host an event alongside the main event. I think this will become more popular, because I know I really enjoy the idea of being able to sit down, get a reliable internet connection, and really get to know the people around you. Talk to the conference coordinator and I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to get a sponsorship, and everyone wins.
Deep-diving with People
Showcializing can help you get past surface-level conversation. At a coworking space I was able to really get to know another developer, and found out that we are both very interested in potential applications of SLAM algorithms on iOS. What are the odds? This is the reason to showcialize. It was a great conversation that could turn into a lasting connection.
Getting to know you~~~
None of this is really going to help without some social skills. Introducing yourself and being genuinely interested in who you’re talking to are two basic tenets of social interaction. Asking interesting questions instead of talking about yourself is a better way to be interesting to others.
A Good Experiment
Like I said, I feel I’m not a very social person, unlike great books that excel at this topic. I am not an expert. But showcializing was a great alternative way to enjoy a conference. It seemed to me that big conferences are too impersonal to be able to really connect with individuals, and showcializing seems a good tactic to humanize large events. Perhaps this was a one-off, or perhaps I’m on to something!