Attending the 2015 HIMSS Conference in Chicago is like being a visitor in a tightly-packed city of about 40,000 inhabitants. And whether you’re first timer at the conference or a battle-scarred veteran conference-goer, you may feel awkward and uncomfortable at times. Add in the fact that there’s a lot of truth to the stereotypical introvert IT person and it’s almost a given that you can benefit from some suggestions and tips on how to socialize in such and environment and get the most enjoyment out of the conference.
It’s quite common for first time conference attendees to feel left out because they may not know too many people. The only reason you may feel that way is because you may not know too many people; yet. Give yourself some time. Remember that everyone else is probably feeling like they don't know anyone too.
Here are Some of Suggestions and Tips
1. Keep in mind that schmoozing is important and okay. Check out other people's nametags so you know who they're. Be sure to wear your nametag in a prominent spot so others can identify you.
Don't get too turned off by nametag gazing. It is what people do at conferences. Sure, people will check yours out, discover that you’re a nobody and then move on. Some of the folks doing this are real ass-kissing idiots who are just looking for famous people to kiss up to. Don't sweat it. Don't let the posers get you down.
3. Consider making a list of all those you want to keep an eye out for. It’s easy to forget while being overwhelmed with all that’s going on.
Tips for Introducing Yourself and Others
4. When you meet someone new, even if your interests are a far apart, you can always say "Have you met so and so? You should. I'll introduce you when I see you together." And then, when you do, they'll possibly be grateful for the intro, and they’ll definitely remember your service.
5. Be as “socially generous” as possible. It almost never "costs" anything to invite someone along, bring them into a conversation, introduce them to a colleague, connect them to someone of common interests, etc.. People always remember these kinds of things and what goes around comes around.
Presentations, Gatherings and Meetups, Oh No!
6. Make a point of asking everyone (in elevators, crossing the street between hotels, waiting in lobbies, airport shuttles, etc.), “Are you here for the HIMSS conference?"
Most likely they will be and it's fascinating to learn why they're attending. Perhaps you have something in common and it'll be a face to smile at if you meet later on in the conference. Even if they're not affiliated with the conference, you'll probably have a chance to explain why you're in town and it will make it that much easier when you do talk to someone at the conference.
7. Prepare a question ahead for someone important that you know will be at the conference. Most people encourage questions related to their presentations--even a couple of days later in the hall.
8. Remember that it's OK to engage people in serious conversations about what they do, what they think about, etc.
9. While listening to presenters, try to look wise--frown, nod, take notes. :)
10. Consider reaching out to those you know you want to meet in advance. Ask them about a recent publication or their interest in your area of expertise. Sometimes they'll ask to meet you at the conference.
11. Never pass up an opportunity to go out with a group to eat or have a drink.
12. Recognize and celebrate the fact that the most important and enjoyable part of the annual meeting is the stuff that occurs OUTSIDE of the sessions.
What other ideas do you have for Meeting Others and Socializing at conferences? Consider following the @HITConfGuy on Twitter for more tips, ideas, and information on this years HIMSS Conference in Chicago.