Tips for Attendees at Big Omaha: How to Work the Room [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on May 10, 2012

If you’re at Big Omaha, congratulations! It’s an in-demand conference and one where the “hallway conversations” — the meet-ups between speaker presentations — are of incredible value. Here are some tips on working the room from an expert on the subject: Susan RoAne, author of  How to Work a Room.

  • Be more of a host and less of a guest. Make introductions. Say “Hi” to wallflowers and invite them into your conversation. Make other people more comfortable. Help them when you can.
  • If you’re going to stay in the conversation, put down your stuff. Carrying your bag or coat during a conversation sends the signal that you’re about to leave.
  • If you’re in a conversation with just one other person, don’t “hotbox” them. Hotboxing is when you square your shoulders front and center to them, and it excludes others from joining.
  • If you’re in a conversation with more than two people, don’t form a huddle. Huddling feels safe, but it’s also antisocial. Try to keep part of your conversation circle open so that others can join.
  • Share your core competency. It’s a perfect segue from the “So what do you do?” question, adds substance to the conversation and establishes your personal marque or brand.
  • Learn. That’s at least part of why you’re at Big Omaha and it’s a great way to get into conversations. Here’s a little mental trick: try to learn 3 new things while you’re here.
  • Eat lunch last. There’s a long lunch break…and a long lunch line. Use the first part of lunch, when the line’s long, to talk to others, then get your lunch once the line’s died down. You’ll still have plenty of time to eat. (Thanks to Megan Hunt, a.k.a. “Princess Lasertron” or @lasertron for this one!)
  • Bring an accordion. Well, it works for me…
  • Smile! It’s contagious, and it starts conversations.

Also worth checking out is Megan “Princess Lasertron” Hunt’s guide to getting the most out of Big Omaha. Check it out!

Eva chimed in with this comment, and I think it was so important I’d add it to the article body:

And if someone joins your group, acknowledge them and don’t let them stand there, invisible, awkward, while you pretend not to see them and continue your conversation. I get this about 50% of the time at conferences, but mainly from people older than me. There’s less ageism in tech/startups than in science/academia, so might not be problem for you guys.


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