I don’t publish a whole heck of a lot of Guest Posts on this site. In fact, with the exception of my super depressing September 11th Series, this might actually be the only one. But my friend Paul texted me yesterday after having stumbled across that dumb Mom-Blogger-Trashing Wall Street Journal article from last week asking if I’d consider publishing a response from him: A bad ass start-up CEO who attends tech conferences, blog conferences, and every kind of business conference in between. And since Paul is one of the smartest people I know, I of course said yes. So I’m going to go pop some Bon-Bons and let Paul do the blogging work today. (Also I’m going to Disneyland with my kid.) Anyway, I give you my friend and yours Paul Burger. Enjoy.
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I must confess:
I HAVE gone to conferences for the parties.
I HAVE stayed out past my bedtime and I might even have had a couple drinks.
People go to conferences for two reasons – to learn and to network. That’s really it. The first one is pretty standard – there will be some great panels with great speakers and most of the time you come away with some new knowledge and if you’re really lucky some inspiration. But that’s really the conference base line. I mean, if a conference didn’t at least do that, no one would go. And let’s face it – everything is on line these days and we can more than likely see the exact same panel from our living rooms in our PJs.
What really sets the great conferences apart is how good or bad the networking is.
I go to a lot of conferences. This is fact:
Every single meaningful connection I have ever made has been in the hallways or at a party.
Networking is hard for most people. Conferences are like adult high school. Remember high school? We went to class, we learned, we listened and we did our homework. (Ok maybe we didn’t but for the sake of argument let’s assume we did). But our friendships, the ones that lasted through going away to college, breakups, marriages and kids were not made in the classroom. They were made on the field, in the locker room and in the hallways.
The same applies here. People want to be friends with, do business with, and connect with people that are like them, and we don’t really find out who a person is until we spend time with that person socially. Business, regardless of which one your in, is still largely about shaking hands and kissing babies. Regardless of whether a deal is done on the back nine, or around the pool over a Tequila Sunrise, business is based on relationships.
Being social can be the difference between success and failure. Whether it’s on Twitter or at a conference, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide behind a website or a business. People want to see who we all are, what our opinions are and what we stand for and since the world we live in has changed so drastically we have to make extra efforts to get out there and meet people. Working from home is great, it allows us to spend more time with our families, less time in traffic and be incredibly effective and efficient with our waking hours, but it means that we lose the connective tissue that holds traditional workplaces together.
Conferences give us that. All of us. Male or female, parents or childless (I’m the latter by the way), work at home entrepreneur, or corporate climber. Which is why as a start-up CEO, frequent conference attendee, and avid reader of WSJ, I can’t figure out what the paper was getting at when they took such a direct swing at the Moms working online.
Sure, conferences have become big business. But the Wall Street Journal could have made that point without mocking an entire faction of our industry. The friendships, partnerships and relationships that are made at midnight sitting on a hotel room patio are the ones that stick. Those are the people you remember, and the people that will likely be the ones to help you along.