Vox’s guide to conference survival

1. Your base of operation is the bar. If you’re not actively doing anything else, that’s where you should be at all times. It’s where a lot of the real players are.

2. Make a few friends based solely on personal compatibility, not professional synchronicity. Always try to at least have lunch with them, it’s good to take a break from the incessant business blather. Go out of your way to introduce them to your contacts that might be interested in what they are doing, and whom they might find useful. These friendships will make future conferences FAR more enjoyable.

3. Blow off the afternoon sessions if there’s nothing you’re really interested in and work out at the fitness center instead. You’ll feel much better and have more energy. In combination with a second afternoon shower, you’ll be far fresher and less run-down than everyone else over the course of the evening.

4. The first night and the last night are the nights to close down the bar. Don’t go out with the strip club/casino crew. Stay away from the beer, red wine, shots, and chick drinks. White wine and screwdrivers will keep you feeling good and functional in the mornings. Don’t skip breakfast either.

5. Make a list of who you want to meet at the conference and try to meet them all by the middle of the second day. If you know someone who knows them, ask them to track them down and introduce you. But don’t be a stalker and manufacture lame excuses, just be straightforward about your interests.

6. Try to keep the maximum number for dinner down to four, eight if at least six of the diners know each other well. One random hanger-on is fine if he’s not a drip, but two is too many.

7. Stay away from the sort of people who look around when talking to you. Avoid the people who throw around huge numbers relating to past and present accomplishments in the first two minutes of a conversation. They’re almost always full of it and even when they’re not, they’re too self-centered to hear a word you say anyhow.

8. If a group of guys are buying shots for a woman of your acquaintance and you suspect one or more of them to harbor nefarious intentions, it is your duty to surreptiously get rid of them for her without their knowledge. This rule supercedes #4. It’s also okay to order a chick drink if doing so will cause particular embarassment to the guy ordering the round for everyone.

9. Carry a fire-starting implement and always spend a portion of the evening outside with the smokers. Even if you don’t smoke, your acknowledgement of their primary need will render your company welcome.

10. Don’t attempt to leave in the afternoon or evening of the last day. Some of the best meetings are the leisurely ones that take place after everything is over. Take it easy and leave the next morning, or better yet, the next afternoon.

11. Learn from the wisdom of the old vets and big dogs. One reporter commented that he didn’t need a card from me or an older friend of mine who happens to be a senior executive at a very large technology corporation, since he knew he could always find us at the next conference holding down the fort at the corner of the bar.

“Allow me to correct you,” answered my friend, a sophisticated citizen-of-the-world sort who exudes effortless cool. “We are merely here to take our evening espresso. In a moment, we shall retire to the most comfortable chairs in the area being served by the most attractive waitress, and there we shall hold our court.”

The startled reporter didn’t quite know what to say and glanced over at me. I just laughed and said “kiss the ring, baby.”