I got back this week from my first ever trip to CTN Expo. Right up until last week I was feeling uneasy about the expense and nervousness of the whole thing. I'm kind of a shy person and the prospect of traveling so far by myself to meet people I didn't know was unnerving. But guess what! I'm so glad I went. I had a fantastic time.
This picture is a sort of take off of my business card design. I gave away a metric ton of cards while I was in Burbank, and I got a similarly sizable stack to take back with me. I put this image together to send out to the e-mail addresses of all the friendly people I met as a kind of "keep in touch note".
I thought this would be a good way to help keep me memorable in people's minds. Which got me thinking of all the other things I did (and wish I had done) for the conference. So I thought I'd put together a brief list of advizos (is that a word?) for anyone planning their first trip to CTN (or any industry conference, really).
Don't worry about going alone.
If you go with a friend you'll send the whole time talking to them. Being alone forces you to meet people. And for some of us shy people, sometimes a little force is necessary.
How to meet people.
Like any event with lots of people, you are going to find yourself standing in a lot of lines or squished next to someone in a long row of audience chairs. These are the people to strike up a conversation with. Ask them a polite questions like "what's this line for?" or "when does this presentation start?" Then introduce yourself and make a new friend.
Bring lots of business cards.
Make sure your name and e-mail are one there in a legible font. Don't spend a lot on super crisp papers and rounded laser cut corners and embossed letter press printing. You make pictures. Make something pretty, print it cheaply.
Here's what my cards look like. I'm not fond of the back image so I think it's going to get a redesign one of these days.
Take notes on the business cards you get.
On every card I got I made a little note to myself to help me remember where I met this person (Glen Keane line), a few of their personal details (works at ad company, storyboards, from Iowa), and maybe what we talked about (portfolio printing).
Update the bios on your social media thingies.
I have a very ordinary name so it's important that when someone goes looking for Matthew Cook they can pick the kindly artist Matthew out from all the other Matthew.
This might also be a good time to change your avatar picture to an actual photo of yourself, at least for a few weeks. If your own photo frightens you like mine does, maybe have your profile picture match a picture on your business card.
Bring some money for loot.
I stuck to a strict budget at CTN because my travel costs were so expensive, but I wish I had budgeted just a little more to buy some stuff. There was a lot of neat stuff.
Bring some healthy food.
The fast food nearby got old really fast, and I didn't have a car to go hunting for a grocery store. Next time I'll try and bring some other options.
Wear comfortable shoes - it does occasionally rain in California.
I wore my worn out old sneakers with a hole in the bottom, so my socks got a little wet.
... and last but not least, follow up with your new friends.
Be brief and polite. Say it was nice to meet them, and comment on something you talked about to refresh their memory of who you are (now is when those notes on the business cards come in handy). Add a list of your web addresses or social network links and invite them to send you the same. Hopefully they will point you back at their web site or facebook page and you can keep up with what they're doing. That way when you run into them next year its like you're old friends.