Your conference toolkit

So this past weekend I picked up something new to add to my conference toolkit.

I attend a fair amount of conferences, meetups etc, The best part of these events for me is people. I love connecting with new friends, as well as reconnecting with old ones.

In the past, when attending an event, I had a very “straight” (read: limited) approach. My toolkit would include a notebook, laptop, or whatever else was essential to the session I was attending. After hours, I’d usually end up hanging around people sharing the same interests, usually with conversations centered around the topics/sessions being presented, often because it just ended up that way.

If you do that, you can get a great deal out of events, but here’s a cool way to get a whole lot more out of it – bring something additional to your toolkit – something that says something about you, or even better, gets people talking with each other…

I love music, and a lot of people do too (especially after a few drinks it seems), so having a guitar handy is a neat way to connect with people. It worked wonders when new friend (see?) James Duncan brought his guitar to bitnorth,

 Bitnorth08, originally uploaded by acroll.

After a day full of brain-expanding thoughts, James’ guitar playing and a mac full of song lyrics was a great way for us to unwind and get to know each other better.  Conferences are about learning and connecting, and having fun doesn’t preclude any of that.

It doesn’t have to be music.. Tod Maffin doesn’t play guitar. He does do card tricks though, and makes people question their own sanity while they try to figure out how he did a trick. He also brings new games (in this pic, PIT) that get people involved and speaking to each other.

The next time you’re planning to go to a conference (or unconference, whatever).. Try to think what you could include in your conference toolkit. You don’t have to get crazy about it, just something that will connect people and get things happening in a pinch. You may not even get to use it, and that’s ok. BUT,  if people endup having more fun because someone (you!) took the initiative to make sure there’s something fun to do, you’ll be happy you took the time, and you’ll make friends because of it.

There’s also a lot to be said for participating,  too.. Don’t play the “it’s my game or no game” thing, don’t just go back to the hotel room, get involved, it’s not about the game, the music or the card trick, its about connecting with people. These things just facilitate that.

What’s in your toolkit?

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3 Comments

  1. LEMills says:

    Hauling my Kindle to PAB did that last year, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a signal on it (no matter how far we hung it out over the south side of the boat). Same with the binoculars, which are always with me for fly-bys.

    Next PAB, group karaoke, OK? (It might make up for my being too far from my gear to be part of your birthday song.) Either that, or we take over a piano bar. With wifi, of course.
    -L.

  2. Ennev says:

    Bob, le Podcaster troubadour! Ça sonne bien!

  3. Stevie Z says:

    Ah, I can just see it now “PAB Unplugged” 🙂

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