Stay Out Of The Hallway and Other Tips From a Serial Conference-goer

We’ve heard from entrepreneurs before on this blog about the importance of building a network that can support and guide your social enterprise. While he was developing Energy Inside, Veer Gidwaney “networked pretty aggressively over a couple of years,” and Teju Ravilochan who co-founded the Unreasonable Institute “went to where the action was.”

Conferences can be a black hole of time and money or they can deliver you your big break. To help you prepare for scenario number two I asked David Wilcox to share the tactics he uses at the four to five conferences he attends each month. Through his company, ReachScale, David unites companies with social enterprises that can be scaled to create a significant impact in the companies’ interest area. He attends conferences to make these connections and create new programs based on the latest trends and information.

Listen to our conversation or right-click and save for the MP3.

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Key Points:


  • Determine whether your idea or opportunity is of interest or value to the people with whom you’re trying to connect. If it is, then be confident when you approach people to talk about it.
  • Look at the speaker list before the conference. Do you know anyone in the speakers’ companies or networks? Do you share a specific interest with any speakers? David spends several hours researching speakers before each conference.


  • It’s all about participation, not promotion.  Think up interesting questions to ask the speakers and panelists. This gives you access to the speakers in a new way because it turns you into a participant. David gets 5-15 business cards at a conference just from people who liked the questions he asked.
  • Learn to focus on talking about your idea or the issue, not yourself or your company. This means couching what you want to present in trends and opportunities.
  • Introduce yourself to the speakers and exchange cards before the session starts to avoid the post-session queue for the speaker’s attention.
  • Avoid office work at the conference and stay out of the hallways and off your phone as much as possible. Attend as many sessions as you can.

If you have a company looking for an innovative way to develop employee skills and grow brand awareness and stakeholder engagement or you are a social entrepreneur, connect with David on LinkedIn.  You can see the conferences he’s attended and where he’s headed on the lower right-hand bar of his site.

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