Ignite, Build, ESPC, Future Decoded, Collab Summit, SharePoint Saturday - you might be like me and look at that list and think “I wish I could have been at all of those, I’ve seen the superstar speakers attending and know they’ll be my drinking buddies forever if only I had the chance to go cos they love the same things I do”. And then you get to go. And the events are great. The sessions are amazing, you learn so much…from afar. You see those people who go up and ask a question at the end and consider it but decide that your question isn’t quite worth it. So you head back to the expo floor and consider chatting to someone but think that maybe you don’t have enough to say. And someone might find you out. Then you see your favourite MVP over there, maybe Karuana Gatimu, Christian Buckley or Andrew Connell. They liked your tweet once so you should say hello. Bit you worry about interrupting them. You don’t want to spoil their day. So you go and have another coffee and head back to wander round the expo floor.
I’ve done this. Quite a few times. Then a couple of years ago, I thought this was silly and at Future Decoded, I said hello to someone. At the Ignite Tour, I chatted with Gregor Suttie after being some impressed by his blog and then Penny Coventry, Chirag Patel and Tony Pounder. Then I submitted to speak at a few user groups. At this ESPC, I finally felt comfortable and said hello to all the MVPs and Microsoft people I’d tweeted before. It felt weird. It felt completely out of my comfort zone. But it felt great too.
I also chatted to random people sat near me. I spoke to people in the queue for the party. I joined a meet up and watched some football together before carrying on for more beers with the two people I was with. We spoke about Brexit, the Everton manager, kids growing up and Harry Styles. For a little while, we spoke about work too. But that wasn’t the whole aim. It was just nice to get to know someone. And that is what a lot of these events are about.
Those people who seem unapproachable will be jet lagged, be missing their wife and kids, be hungover, be thinking about work, probably the same way you are. But they aren’t here for the money, they are here to chat. So ask that question. Say hello. Get to try and know them. Say thank you for what they do. Appreciate them.
But also chat to the people next to you. Join that spare table at the party and chat to new people. I did. I met someone who was so happy that she had rolled out a new Teams instance in a Google heavy company. I met someone who helps with European telescopes in Chile. Turns out they have the same worries about what to do as their kids grow up as I do.
These are the chances to learn more from people and make new connections. Take that chance. Be that friendly person. It could change your whole career. Or it could just make you feel happy for the rest of the day, safe in the knowledge there will always be a bit of your heart devoted to it...