SAN FRANCISCO (Hypebot) – We've all been there – you walk into a conference where hundreds of people are gathered for a common cause or interest, and without fail, there are those people who know they can do "it" better than everyone else in attendance. Whatever "it" is, they've got the monopoly on the best ideas and they're going to let you know about it. You find yourself in a cesspool that reeks omnipotent elitists schmoozing while tauting their over-inflated egos and choking on their sales pitch. It's simply unattractive. So, before we go into next week's SF Music Tech conference with guns blazing, I thought I'd give you some knowingly less than sage advice that has absolutely no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
I've made my fair share of mistakes, trust me – that's 50% of the reason we're having the digital conversation. The other 50% comes from enduring mistakes that could have been avoided had someone had the guts to say what everyone else is thinking. So, without further ado, and with no filter whatsoever, 5 things to avoid at SF Music Tech (or any conference, really).
1) The Marathon Introduction.
SF Music Tech goes from 8am to 3:30pm. According to my calculations, and feel free to double check my math, that's seven and a half hours. In those 7.5 hours you have panels to attend, information to gather, new tools to learn about, and a LOT of people to meet. Odds are, everyone is trying to make connections just like you are, so don't monopolize their time. I spent exactly 27 minutes (Yes, I got annoyed and started timing it) cornered by some guy who spent almost all of the half hour we were standing there telling me about all of the headliners he's worked with. I couldn't tell you his name, who he works for, or what he does, but I vividly remember his monotonous monologue. I'm not even sure I got an introduction out, but I know he couldn't tell you the first thing about why I was a conference attendee. Why? Because he never asked. Always ask – you never know who you're standing across from.
2) Being The Star Fucker
You know the type. The ones at the end of a panel frothing at the mouth to spit out "I'M SUCH A FAN OF YOUR WORK" at some poor unsuspecting speaker, pushing to get a quote from them, or even worse, take a selfie to slap on their Instagram. They're perpetually looking over their shoulder – and yours – for someone better. Someone higher up the ladder. When you find yourself surrounded by a new a group or an individual, don't just kill time, engage. You never know what someone has to offer unless you give them the same chance that someone once gave you. Hear out the little guy. The big guys will show. In the meantime, you may unknowingly set the groundwork for the collaboration of a lifetime.
3) Being the I, Me, My Guy
If the only experience you can speak to is what you've done on your own, you probably need more experience. You definitely need practice in communication because nothing is more of a turn off than an elevator pitch chock full of "yours truly" gold star moments. I'm going to show my age here, but you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. You're at a conference to network – if part of your conference attire includes a big mouth and a closed mind, you may as well stay at home. Ask questions. If you realize you're doing all of the talking, take a backseat and allow the other person to answer your questions.
A conference like SF Music Tech is a concentrated opportunity to network among creative music industry leaders who really do have a lot to offer you and anyone else in the business. Take full advantage of that. Try something new. Go to a session you may not think is relevant. Meet people who do the things you don't. Seek out opportunites to cultivate professional relationships you can build on. That whole "you get more bees with honey than with vinegar" quote – totally valid. Turn the tables – try asking someone what you could do for them instead of feeling out what they could do for you. You may not always be able to deliver, but they're always going to remember that you asked.
4) Name Dropping
Rattling off a laundry list of Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, and high-dollar acts that you've had some part in working with at some point in your career to prove your relevance is a little like trying to convince Simon Cowell to put you through to the next round of American Idol without singing simply because you're related to Elton John. It's just not going to happen. You are what you do, not what you say you'll do or what you say you've done. Actions speak louder, and name dropping for name droppings sake speaks poorly and proves nothing.
Don't shy away from being human. The most successful people are successful because they've learned how to fail. Be open about your experiences and about what they've taught you. I, for one, am always more interested in what you've learned by working with said companies, celebrities, an impressive acts than who you've actually worked for.
Showing Up Empty Handed
I don't have a photographic memory, but if I did I would have followed up with a lot more people after last May's SF Music Tech conference. If you don't have business cards, fine, (if you do, don't leave them at home) but at least bring a notepad, a pen, super glue, a highlighter, a tattoo gun, something to use to pass off your information. Everyone brings something unique to the table. Figure out what that is and how you're going to make connections you can follow up on.
All this to say, strive to be someone you'd like to meet at SF Music Tech (or any other conference).
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, and I've scared some or all of you into the shadows, who do I get to meet next week at SF Music Tech?! Let me know in the comments below.