Strangers, passion, money, knowledge…

A guest blog from Shawn Anderson, 4 time Business of Software attendee, all round gentleman and president and co-founder of Admin Arsenal, maker of tools for IT administrators, a.k.a. smart people. Shawn shares seven top tips for getting the most out of the Business of Software conference.

Shawn is:


Would you give a total stranger $2,495.00?

Ridiculous question, huh?

For those whose bucket list doesn’t include “give that dude a huge check”, never fear, you’re not alone. Sane people generally don’t give money to someone without an expectation of a higher return, which is why your decision to attend BoS 2011 is so telling.

This will be my 4th Business of Software conference, and I, like so many others on this spinning orb we call Earth, have learned a lot from this annual meeting of software minds.

So here, in no particular order, are the seven things you can do to make the most of your BoS experience.

1 Sit at a different table for each meal

Breakfast and lunch are great times to meet other software pros, so utilize this time by mingling with many people. If you are so fortunate as to be attending BoS with others from your company, group, organization, charity, church, synagogue, or coven, then rest assured, you will have plenty of time to chat with them about what you have learned at BoS. Just not during meal time. Take the challenge to NOT sit with your associates during breakfast/lunch. Get out and mingle with the masses.


God, science, a photo-plasm explosion, Thor, or pure dumb luck gave you two ears and one mouth. So while you’re eating, do yourself a favor and chew with your ears open.

You probably face challenges that are effecting your company’s growth. After all, if you had all the answers you wouldn’t be spending your hard earned money to attend a conference (see paragraphs above).

You may be surprised at the number of people who do have the answers you’re looking for. Lest you feel like a moocher, worry not, if you’ve been in business for longer than a month you too have sage advise that someone needs to hear.

3 Don’t force the conversation

Hey, remember that time I asked you for $2,400? How’d that go?

You’ll probably find the same outcome if you sit down and start blathering about your feeble marketing, uncertainty about product pricing, poor cashflow, annoying partner, or that website redesign that actually ended up losing customers.

Remember the adage: “Me! Me! Me! That’s all you ever want to talk about. Let’s talk about you for a change.”

I’ve found a lot of great responses by simply asking someone easy questions like:

  • where they’re from?
  • which company they’re with?
  • is this their first BoS?
  • why did they choose to attend?
  • who’s paying for it? (the answers to this question are interesting)
  • what do they hope to get from attending?

Don’t shy away from the personal stuff. Asking someone about their family will also shed light on issues that you may have. Peldi Giacomo spoke at the last BoS and discussed balancing time with his family and business. “Work while they sleep… because they don’t even know you’re ignoring them”.  ( (at approx. 18:50)

4 Take advantage of the lack of electrical outlets at the conference 

After BoS 2008 I spoke to Neil Davidson (founder of BoS) about the lack of electrical outlets in the main theater, lamenting that my laptop battery wasn’t powerful enough to last the whole conference. I’ve since changed my tune, having learned the value of keeping the computer off. It’s just too tempting to check email or handle support questions.

I do take notes with my iPad, using NoteTaker HD and Mind Node. The iPad battery is more than strong enough to handle a BoS day without needing to recharge.

Introduce yourself to Dharmesh (sorry, Dharmesh)

Dharmesh Shah, the founder of Hubspot (, just happens to be the biggest reason why I continue to attend BoS. He’s a start-up guru. If he doesn’t know the answer, the person who does know it is probably following him (@dharmesh).

It’s not rhetorical. Try it.

Take what you’ve learned from BoS and put it to practice.

Some of the things learned at past BoS’ have been golden for us. Others have not been so golden. That’s OK. We tried them, tweaked them, and if they didn’t work, we stopped doing them. Through it all we remembered Dharmesh’s advise that most mistakes will not kill you.

Participate in the break-out sessions

My first advice in this article was a method to network with attendees during meals. The next best place is the break-out session. 

You will hear eloquent speakers and will soon have great ideas dripping out of your ears. Attend these sessions and learn what others have also discovered. Sometimes their conclusions are in contrast with your own (pay attention to these instances). Other times they will confirm your thoughts.

With my list completed, my parting statement will likely stroke your ego a little. (Just go with it.)

You are a genius. You either run a company or you are an integral part of a company. You have learned things, that when shared, will be the reason that other attendees shelled out their hard earned money to attend. They, like you, are up nights wondering what they can do to navigate the next turn, not quite sure what lies just beyond their view. It’s a scary thing to run a company. You need support.

So think of BoS as your very own 12-step software anonymous support group.

Hi. My name is Shawn, and I run a software company.

Shawn Anderson is president and co-founder of Admin Arsenal, maker of tools for IT administrators, a.k.a. smart people.


By the way, you can save $550 on the ticket price if you book by September 1st and use the code, BoSAug.