Getting the most value for your cash. With both MN.swf Camp and Flashbelt on the horizon here are some tips on how to get the most from your conference experience.

Talk to strangers
Don’t sit next to your co-worker, friend or even anyone that looks remotely familiar to you. It can be hard to walk up to random people, so sit next to them. I’ve meet some of the coolest people in the five minutes before and after a conference. Don’t worry about getting their entire life story, that’s for the after parties, just say hi and ask them about what they do. Exchange cards and remember their face.

Write on the business cards
Are you going to remember who these people are after three days? Will you remember who you intended to get in touch with? Turn that stack of useless business cards into valuable information. Write down a quick remark on the back that you will remember them by. For example “yellow shirt, flash for tv, startup.” You’ll get back home and remember that crazy guy in a yellow t-shirt who wanted to start a business with Flash for televisions. Much better than John Doe, Coder at ABC corp. This is the technique used by HR managers when they are at career fairs taking resumes. It works really well.

Attend the after parties
Most conferences include free drinks and often times appetizers at the after parties. You paid for the ticket so take advantage of this. Find that person you sat next to at the conference or the crazy guy in the yellow t-shirt. Debate with them, ask them questions. Did I mention that almost all the speakers attend these parties? How often do you get the chance to talk with the person who helped make Papervision, Flash, or the YouTube video player?

Talk to the speakers
Most of the speakers are down to earth, easy going, fun people. They want to talk with you. That’s why they flew half way across the world to speak. Pick their brains about politics, hobbies and maybe even about ActionScript.

Spread the love
Don’t talk to the same person for to long. The benefit to conferences is that everyone is in the same place. If you have enough to talk about for more than 5 or 10 minutes exchange cards and grab lunch. Don’t be afraid to break off the conversation and talk to more strangers.

Bring business cards
Or at least something that has your name on it. If your at a conference just to tunnel vision to the rooms, watch the speakers and go home than something is very wrong. Everyone at a conference has a common interest. If there is ever a time to be social, this is it.

Attend the sessions
Don’t expect the speakers to teach you a full college course in one hour. Be inspired. Ask for sample code. Ask questions. Find out who will be talking to your interests. If nothing interest you during a particular time slot than go for a walk. Take a breather. If your actively engaged in the conference skipping a few sessions isn’t going to be the end of the world. This is especially true if you are in another city / country. Take in the culture for an hour and enjoy the day.

Most importantly have fun!

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