Career Advice Tuesday – A Conference First Timer’s Guide (Part II)
July 19, 2011
This is a continuation from last week’s question from a first time attendee at Blackhat and Defcon.
Tip #2 – Start Preparing Early
Once you’ve got a plan for the conference all figured out, it’s time to start getting prepared. Long before we wrote these posts, we had already started contacting people who were on our plan for this year’s conference to make sure that we had set up some time to meet. Mike’s schedule is already quite full from Sunday evening of that week all the way through our Thursday afternoon talk with people that he wants to see and events that he plans to attend. Lee’s is the same.
Yours should be as well. Start reaching out now to the people who you want to spend a few minutes with and make sure that you get on their calendar. This is especially true if you know that the people who you want to meet up with are going to be busy at the show (esp. if they’re speakers at one of the various events).
Tip #3 - Skip Most of the Talks
This may seem counter-intuitive – most people think that conferences are entirely about the talks. While this may have been true in 1998, it’s not nearly as true in 2011. This tip can all be summed up by a single quote that we overheard at last year’s conference: ”They record the presentations. They don’t record the hallway conversations.”
When you go to a conference like Blackhat, you get a CD of all of the presentation materials and recordings of all of the talks are uploaded online. You can get that material anywhere. What you can’t get is the information and relationships that you get from each of the million conversations you’ll have at lunch, during the breaks, and at the parties in the evening.
Far too many people get up early to go to all of the talks and skip the parties because they have to work. Here’s our advice: if you’re going to do work, do it from the talk itself. Take your laptop, pop your 3G card in (which is better than most Vegas hotel connections), and get your work done while speakers are talking. You won’t miss anything that you can’t go back and re-watch later.
Then, make sure that you go to a bunch of the parties. Meet the people who are on your plan and have a drink with them.
This is how you’ll make many life-long friendships and professional connections.
As we’ve pointed out before, it’s how Lee and Mike met in the first place.
So… with those three tips in hand, get a stack of at least 250 business cards and pack your bags. And come find each of us when you get there – we’ll be the ones not attending the talks and talking to all of our favorite people.
Lee & Mike