Maximizing the Social Side of a Conference

Sep 20, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Professional Development  //  1 Comment

Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter) recently blogged about setting up a PASS Orientation Committee for the upcoming PASS Summit. He shared his ideas of instituting something that would encourage more interaction between PASS Summit attendees:

most importantly we can get these people to build a connection with someone else which is going to result in a more positive Summit experience and make it more likely to have those persons return next year.

I think it’s a great idea.  Anything we can do to encourage networking and community would make the summit much more valuable to everyone.   There are plenty of people who are extroverts online who are introverts when it comes to in-person socializing and networking.  Being introverted doesn’t have to mean lonely, though.

I shared the following story during the #SQLCruise WIT session:

I was a board member of an association and attending one of my first conferences for that society.  I had made it a goal to meet as many people as I could so that I’d better know the community and to get more out of the conference.   I still have that goal for every event I attend.

I walked up to a small group of people, of which I knew two people in the group.  The conversation was about things to do near the convention centre.  I didn’t know much about the area, but did contribute some great restaurants I’d found.  The two people I knew wandered off and more people joined the chat.  Soon, the topic changed to work-related topics:

Me: So where do you work?

Guy: <redacted> Inc.

Me: That sounds interesting. What do you do there?

Guy: ….I’m sorry, I’m married

I was stunned. I replied back “Uh…great”.  I then walked away, not sure whether I was just insulted or complimented.  After a few minutes I decided on insulted.   And I was still stunned.  Even as I tell this story I waiver between amused, angry, and back to amused.

It took me a long time before I could work up the courage to walk up to someone and introduce myself.

So I’m a huge fan of more organized methods to encourage people to interact in a way that gives them more freedom to just join a conversation.  I don’t like “ice breakers” as much as someone in a leadership position telling everyone that the event is supposed to be about meeting others and giving everyone permission to join in. Whether that is choosing to sit a any table at lunch, choosing to introduce themselves to complete strangers, or even walking up to someone who is by themselves and asking if they want to join an existing group.

The leaders of SQL Server community (and I don’t just mean PASS leaders) should set examples by encouraging meeting new people.  That means being proactive about ensuring everyone feels welcome at all the official events and inviting new people to the unofficial social events.

I have some more specific ideas about how this might work, but the key is for everyone to realize that we have conventions to convene. We can’t all be extroverts, but we still can be part of a community.

1 Comment

  • Karen, This is quite true. I don't find myself to be a real extrovert, but I make every attempt to meet new people at a conference. There are many introverts in the data community. I agree with Thomas that the typical IT conference attendee often just goes it alone and socializes tittle. At the past CA World, the MGUC set up many social opportunities. We had mixed results. I am now trying to get the community to connect more on-line. With over 1,300 on-ine members, the chats in the MGUC portal,, LinkedIn and Facebook is almost near silence. I keep plugging away though.

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