Why DemoCamp is one of my favorite networking events

I love DemoCamp and the whole BarCampToronto scene. I’ve made all sorts of incredible connections there. Let me tell you a story from just this Monday’s DemoCamp17, and you’ll see why.

It was towards the end of the DemoCamp pub night, past the bar’s closing time. I headed over to say hi to Kaleem Khan, whom I hadn’t talked with that evening. He was talking to a woman I didn’t recognize, so I introduced myself and asked whether she had been to DemoCamp before. She introduced herself as Alex and said that this was her first DemoCamp and that her friend had told her about it. Kaleem joked that clearly nobody had told Alex that it would be a conference full of geeks. Alex laughed and said that she works with scientists, so geeks were extroverts in comparison. When she mentioned scientists, I perked up and told her that there was someone she really needed to met. I headed across the room and found Jamie McQuay chatting with a few other people. At the first break in the conversation, I kidnapped Jamie and steered him across the room to where Alex was sitting. I mentioned that Jamie was helping organize a SciBarCamp (an unconference for scientist-types), and I told Jamie about how the topic of scientists had come up. Jamie and Alex started chatting, and the next time I checked in on them, I heard Alex invite Jamie to get in touch with her to see if her organization might be interested in sponsoring SciBarCamp. How cool was that?

That’s a terrific example of the kind of connections I love making. By keeping my ears open, I can come across all these opportunities to connect the dots. If I know what people are interested in or are looking for, then I can connect them with the peolpe, ideas, or tools they need in order to make things happen.

DemoCamp has been a consistently fantastic place for me to make those connections. Why? I think it’s because of these reasons:

People who go to DemoCamp are interesting. They’re independent consultants, startup founders, and even the occasional big-company anomaly like me. They’ve all got something interesting about them, and they make it easy to find out what that interesting thing is.

The demos and Ignite presentations are a terrific way to get the conversation started. High-energy, eye-opening demos put everyone in an optimistic and open mood, and do away with all the small talk about the weather. My favorite opener is, “So, which of the demos and Ignite presentations did you like the most?” From there, I can find out more about why people found them interesting and what else they’re into. Plus, I can carry their compliments back to the speakers for extra karma points!

I know or know of enough people to get network effects. I’ve reached the tipping point. I get economies of scale. When I meet new people, I can usually think of people they should get to know. If I don’t know someone, I know the other connectors can help me find that person – and then I’ll know them too. I’m on hugging terms with many DemoCamp regulars, and I feel warm and fuzzy about people there because I’ve gotten to know and admire them through their blog entries, presentations, comments, and e-mail.

How can I connect even better at DemoCamp?

  • Follow up: I need to ensure I have nothing scheduled for the evening after DemoCamp, or at the very least, I should have a quick e-mail ping ready to go as soon as I get home. BBDB was the best way for me to do that because I could keep notes on people and tie that into e-mail, so I might switch back to doing my mail in Gnus, even though Gmail has been really good to me!
  • Give out business cards: This is mainly to increase the chance of follow up. I usually take the responsibility of e-mailing people, but it’s better if they also have something physical that reminds them of our conversation. I used to print my own double-sided business cards, but my current printer can’t handle the fine-cut business card templates. This is definitely worth getting a better printer. (Preferably one that can also do index cards.)
  • Do another presentation: Hands-down, the best way to network at these events. People still remember the DemoCamp10 presentation I gave on Livin’ la Vida Emacs. I’d love to prepare an Ignite presentation on networking at DemoCamp, and turn that into something that we can share on the DemoCamp signup page so that newbies can make the most of the experience.

How about you? Been to DemoCamp? What do you think?

Visual notes – Gary Vaynerchuk and Democamp Toronto 24

Funny aside: When Jay Goldman handed Gary Vaynerchuk a bottle of water, Gary offered it for sale. Little things like that reinforce story.

Key take-aways: Passion and patience are everything. Hustle. Out-care others. Offer good stuff. Pay attention to everything. How do you scale? By trying.

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Notes from the demos and the pub, before I broke my fountain pen:

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Explanations for scribbles upon request, or when I can make time for it! =)