A First-Timer’s Summit: Speed Dating and Pick-up Lines at the Summit? What?

by Danielle Villegas on 9 April 2013

Danielle Villegas, also known as TechCommGeekMom, is attending the STC Summit for the first time this year, so we’ve asked her to blog about her expectations and excitement approaching the Summit, plus her experiences at the Summit. This is the fifth post of her series.

As I learn more about the STC Summit, it seems to me that there is a big emphasis on . . . go on, say it with me . . . networking. There are plenty of opportunities to network with other tech comm professionals at the Summit. I sat in on a helpful webinar for Summit first-timers with Nathanial Lim and Rhyne Armstrong, and networking seemed to be a predominant theme throughout the webinar. There’s a bulletin board to post events and outings during the Summit. There’s even one type of learning session called Progressions, in which people sit around a table for a mini-lecture, and then at the bell, switch to another table—much like speed dating. Wait—speed dating? Nathanial and Rhyne also provided some opening lines to help break the ice with other attendees such as, “Hi, my name is ____ and this is my first Summit. I’m from _____, and I’m a _______. Where are you from?” Opening lines too? Or are they pick-up lines? “Nice iPad you have there. Like to see my apps?”

Of course, I’m being a little silly and exaggerating, but an important part of the Summit is getting to know other people who are in the same profession and doing similar work to you. Since many technical writers tend to be introverts, how do we truly make these valuable professional connections? I asked Hannah Morgan, the Career Sherpa, the best way to go about it, as I have heard her speak about this very topic. She provided me with great suggestions, which included the following:

  • Make sure to research and identify at least 2-3 people you want to meet and converse with prior to going to the event. You can do your research through LinkedIn or any other social media venue, and then formulate questions from that information. [Editor's note: be sure to check out Lanyrd.com!]
  • Buddy up with someone prior to the start of the day and make an agreement that you’ll go in together, then separate for a set time, then rejoin. Having someone you know you can touch back in with offers a safety net and accountability.
  • Find the most extroverted person you know. Hang around them for a while and they will introduce you to everyone they meet! That’s what extroverts love doing.
  • Fake it until you make it! Put on the persona of an extrovert and make introductions. Use those “pick-up lines” by approaching a stranger and ask lots of questions to learn about them! Here are some more helpful conversation starters:
    • How’s your week going?
    • Have you seen any good outings posted on the bulletin board?
    • What led you to set up your own business/be a technical communicator, etc?
    • What’s the best part of your job?
    • What part of the talk really resonated with you?
    • What’s been the best session for you?
    • What session are you most looking forward to?

Hannah offered this slidedeck that she created which provides more tips on networking purposefully.

I am grateful to Hannah for these tips (thank you!) because I imagine there are others attending who are like me—terrified of networking! I know the “rules,” but I’m really horrible at them. So, I’ll personally be doing my research (I do know a few people through social media), and I will have to fake it until I make it!

Oh, and don’t be afraid to approach me first—I’m bad at making the first move, but I’m always open to meeting new people.

Danielle M. Villegas writes the blog TechCommGeekMom.com. She is graduated with her MSPTC degree from NJIT in 2012, and is currently a Web publishing consultant for BASF North America and an instructor for World Learning teaching Business and Technical Writing.

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