16 Tips for Connecting with Others at Business of Software

This is a guest post from Trevor Lohrbeer. Trevor is the founder and CEO of Lab Escape, a data visualization company that sells heat maps for embedding into desktop & web applications. He blogs about how to optimize your decisions at Lean Decisions and on entrepreneurship, networking and personal development at Fast Fedora.


Attending Business of Software is about the people, not the content. While you’ll learn a tremendous amount during the sessions, if content is all you want, you can register for the free online streaming.

The people you meet make the conference. They provide the true value of attending Business of Software and keep you coming back year after year.

I’m attending Business of Software for my third year. As someone who used to be incredibly awkward and bad at meeting people (and who still is from time to time), I figured I’d share some tips that I’ve learned for connecting with others and making the most out of your experience.

Before the Conference

Preparation helps. Don’t wait until you arrive to start figuring out who and how you will connect with others. Use these tips to get a head start.

1. Learn How to Connect

If you’re shy or introverted, check out Sacha Chua’s The Shy Connector presentation and her follow-up post. Then read Scott Dinsmore’s The 31 Habits of the World’s Best Connectors for more tips.

2. Make Yourself Known

Give others the opportunity to find and connect with you:

  • Register on Sched, the official conference web site.
  • RSVP to the event on LinkedIn.
  • Tweet using the hashtag #BoS2012. Tweet your home city to connect with others near you. Tweet your interests and see if anyone shares them. Tweet what you’re doing in Boston so people can join in.

3. Connect With Others

Don’t wait until the conference starts to begin making good connections. Do some prep work and start early:

  • Review who’s attending using Sched and the LinkedIn event. See who shares common interests or needs with you, and who you know in common.
  • Bookmark people you want to meet. Review their photos to help recognize them at the event.
  • Reach out to people before the event. Follow them on Twitter or send them an e-mail. Emphasize what you have in common and how you can help each other.

I wait until I meet someone in person to add or accept them as a contact on LinkedIn or Facebook, but others accept contacts more liberally. Develop your own style for how to use these networks before the conference.

4. Create an Event

Not everyone flies in Sunday night and leaves Wednesday afternoon. Last year, several of us met via Twitter and had dinner together Saturday night. I made awesome connections that night that I still stay in touch with.

Organize a pre- or post-conference event. Share one of your passions or explore the wonders of Boston. Host a dinner, pub crawl, walking tour, trip to Salem, run or a game night. Then announce it on Twitter using #BoS2012 and post it to the Facebook page & LinkedIn event page.

I’ll be hosting a dinner Saturday night. If you’re interested in attending, tweet me at @FastFedora (and tag it #BoS2012 so others can see it and join in).

During the Conference

Once you arrive at the conference, the magic starts to happen. Get a good rest the night before.

5. Smile

Look friendly and inviting: smile. At a conference of mostly introverts, smiles alleviate nervousness and help us naturally connect with others. If someone smiles at you, consider it an invitation to go up and say hello.

6. Introduce Yourself

Say hi to the people next to you. The Business of Software badges list our interests, so use those as conversation starters. Or ask an intriguing or helpful question. Two of my favorites: “What’s your greatest passion and why?” and “Who would you like to meet at Business of Software?”.

7. Introduce Others

Listen to what people say they need or who they’re looking to connect with. Take the opportunity to introduce them to someone you know, or someone you just met.

Too shy to introduce yourself? Find a buddy and go around introducing each other to new people. Often it’s easier to introduce someone else than it is to introduce ourselves.

8. Take Notes

Jot down a couple words on the back of that new person’s business card to help you remember the connection. Record the topic you talked about, ways you can help each other, or notable aspects about how they look. Use these notes when connecting with that person after the conference. You’ll be meeting people for three days. Don’t rely on your memory.

9. Monitor Twitter

Set up a search for the #BoS2012 hashtag and monitor the conversation throughout the conference. Watch what people are talking about and jump into the conversation when you have something to say. Look for activities being scheduled through Twitter to find other opportunities for connecting in a small group setting.

10. Use Body Language

Keep your body language open and inviting. Stand straight with your shoulders back, arms open. You’ll not only appear confident and approachable, you’ll raise your testosterone and lower your cortisol, helping you to feel less stressed and more in control. Avoid crossing your arms—bring an extra jacket in case you get cold to avoid the stern teacher look.

11. Be Personal

Share your personal interests and desires. Everyone attending, from the speakers to the person sitting next to you, has a complex set of interests and needs. Deep connections happen when we share our full selves, not just our work selves. Don’t focus purely on business. Share your personal passions too.

Though avoid using the person you just met as your therapist. Save your deep emotional turmoil for another time. Aim to make connections, not instant best friends.

12. Be Respectful

When a speaker is talking on stage, listen. Don’t have extended side conversations—take those out to the hall. If you have to get a few last words in after a speaker starts, whisper and keep it short.

After the Conference

After you get back, don’t let your connections wither. You’ll be tired. You’ll be inspired with new ideas and knowledge. But take the time to reach out and solidify the connections you made.

13. Send Follow-Ups

E-mail the people you met and tell them you that you remember them and enjoyed meeting them. Use your notes to reference your conversations. If you were going to send them info or make an introduction, do it. Send them links to any notes or posts you wrote about the conference.

14. Connect via Social Media

Add the people you connected with to LinkedIn or Facebook. Follow people on Twitter. But keep in mind that not everyone uses every network, and some people only use Facebook for personal use, so don’t be offended if the request isn’t always accepted.

Use tags in LinkedIn or lists in Facebook to track who you met at Business of Software and how you might want to follow up in the future.

15. Write a Blog Post

Summarize your notes from the sessions or your experience at Business of Software into a blog post you can share with others. Or provide a forum to continue the discussions started at the conference. Aim to provide value back to the Business of Software community. Share the link on Twitter using #BoS2012, then post a link on the the Business of Software Facebook page.

16. Keep Connected

Continue to follow the #BoS2012 hashtag to see the post-conference followups. Join the Business of Software LinkedIn group and like the Business of Software Facebook page to stay connected throughout the year.

That’s all I have for now. If you want to connect with me at the conference, just look for the fellow in the black fedora and say hi.

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