Cisco Live is a wonderful opportunity to meet people and have in-depth technical discussions. For me, I find this event to be a great venue to finally see those that I have had numerous online interactions with. It serves as a way to elevate these relationships to a new level. In John’s article entitled “Build a Career with Relationships“, he suggested that a conversation at Cisco Live likely helped him establish his current employment. This opportunity to network with others can be an invaluable tool in solidifying your technical career.
Before making several suggestions on maximizing the networking opportunities at Cisco Live, I wanted to make an observation based on my experience with this event. First and foremost, this is not like your typical sales or chamber events with everyone making small talk. Cisco Live is primarily attended by like-minded technical people who prefer the discussions about gadgets and protocols to those less meaningful conversations.
There are a lot of technology rockstars in attendance and you are sure to bump into a few. During my first time attending Cisco Live this really surprised me. One thing that you’ll likely realize is that they’re really not that different from the rest of us. With that being said, there are several key points that you can use to maximize your networking experience at Cisco Live or similar technical event. Many of those are listed below.
Maximizing Networking Opportunities
- Build your social network over time prior to attending such an event–The event can become the meeting place and elevate the relationships to a personal level. For those new to this concept, Twitter is typically the social network of choice. For those attending Cisco Live, Tom Hollingsworth has created a twitter list with some of the “tweeps” who are planning to attend.
- Enjoy meals in the dining halls–It is not uncommon to sit down at a table for breakfast or lunch and realize there is an industry legend or technology rockstar sitting next to you.
- Realize that rockstars aren’t that much different–Many of the people you look up to are really cool, humble people who are very approachable. So while they have unique characteristics that have led them to success, they are people just like you and I.
- Join the Social Networking Event (aka TweetUp)–Information can also be found on Tom’s site. (he truly is The Networking Nerd)
- Participate in a “meet the engineer” session–If you have a unique or in-depth perspective on a product or technology, it might be beneficial to build a personal relationship with one of the engineers. These are often well acquainted with individuals in the standards bodies as well as other industry leaders that share the common interest.
- Don’t be That Guy (or Gal)–There is nothing wrong with asking a question in a session, but it should be asked with respect of the presenter’s wishes. It should also be a sincere question and asked in a positve manner. Backhanded comments are never cool. If you have something that needs more in-depth conversation, talk to the presenter after the session has concluded.
One More Don’t
There are a few things that it might not be a good idea to do at this type of event. I already mentioned the annoying guy (or gal) that tries to be a know-it-all or doesn’t respect the structure of the session. I would also mention the fact that there is a lot of after hours activities. Most of these have a free flow of alcoholic beverages. If you drink, you should certainly know your boundaries and how you behavior is perceived when you go to far. There are just a lot of different ways that drunken behavior can be bad from a career perspective.
Cisco Live, like many other technical conferences, is a great place to network with like minded individuals. There are several key things that should not be overlooked for those whose personal network is part of the career strategy. Technical job seekers should realize that while their personal network can be used for tactically seeking employment, a well established network is more often viewed as a longer term strategy. By establishing a social network presence in advance of an event, the conference can become the venue to make the relationships real and personal. These relationships, over time, can be very valuable to an individuals technical career.