Ways to Save a Bad Time at a Conference

This is #8 on Chris Brogan’s list of 100 Blog Topics I Hope YOU Write.

First of all, I have skipped #6, and, not having used Flickr yet, will not be writing about that at this point in time.

To me, there are two types of bad times at conferences. First, the conference may turn out to be something that you were not expecting (as an example, you go to a Sci-Fi convention, and discover that it’s actually a Star Trek convention, in which you happen to have no interest). The second type of bad time is where the conference could have been good, but for some reason, you aren’t connecting.

In the first case, there’s really not much you can do, unless you decide to take the opportunity to learn something new. Extra knowledge can be useful, even if you don’t know yet how you might apply it. Besides, in any group setting, there’s the networking aspect, which is difficult to predict as to how it will pay off in the long run.

In the second case, there’s a different problem. You went to a conference on the nature of the universe expecting to hear lectures from the like of Stephen Hawking, and discover that he wasn’t interested in presenting, so they took the local high school physics teacher as a stand-in. Couple this with the fact that 90% of the attendees are still in high school. You have a PhD in physics.

Remember, that unless you failed to do any research into the conference (in which case you have no one to blame but yourself for it not living up to your expectations), there are likely other people at this conference who are also not enjoying themselves. Other people who came to the conference with similar expectations to your own, and made similar discoveries as you have about the nature of the conference.

Find them.

You could sit and complain together, but better yet, you can set up an impromptu conference in the middle of the one you’re all attending. Even if you can only find one or two other people who seem bored, get together with them in a fairly public area (look for a spare room that’s part of the conference area but isn’t being used at the moment) and give a presentation on a topic you are considered expert in (assuming, of course, that it relates to the subject of the conference). Ask the people you’ve met to do the same.

In a short while, you will have heard a few ad lib presentations on topics that you would have found interesting. You’ve connected to a few other experts in the field. And if the organizers of the conference are paying attention, you may soon get a request to help them organize their next conference, preventing a repeat of the poor performance.

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