Those of you who know me will also know that I’m addicted to conferences. For me, the eye-opener was the second edition of the European Shareware Conference. I went there just to see what it was like, not knowing anyone. I am very shy in nature, and it’s not always easy to get to know new people. But when I was there, I went to the informal drinks the evening before the conference, and knew everyone who was there in no time.
I actually think that going there without knowing anyone was an advantage. I could not just sit there alone all the time, and had to talk to people I didn’t know. During the next few days of the conference, I made it a habit to ask everyone who they were and what they were doing. The result was an unforgettable experience, a lot of fun and long lasting friendships.
After this experience, I got addicted to the conferences, like I said. I’m now helping with organizing the ESWC, but I’ve also been to ISDEF several times, I’ve been to SWRUS-Kiev for the first time this year, and I’ve been to Tech*Ed Europe 2 times. The conferences are my holidays, and it’s where I meet some of my best friends.
Next to going to these conferences, I also started joining online communities, such as ASP and AISIP, and participating in newsgroups and forums. This can be very time consuming, and you have to be smart in it: Don’t read every word anyone has ever written. You just don’t have the time for that. But participate in these conversations which are interesting to you.
Another thing I did was volunteer work for the ASP. Volunteer work means that you have to put a lot of work in without getting paid or getting anything back. But still I’m very happy to do it, even if sometimes it gets difficult to find the time.
And of course, being a conference lover, I also started speaking at conferences. I was very insecure about this at first, but in the end it turns out to be fun and not difficult at all, and it’s a great way for getting people to know you.
To be honest, the real reason for doing all this is simply because I enjoy it. But the nice side effect is that everyone knows me, and that I can just call up a large number of people to ask them to do something together.
My father asked me yesterday if I get anything out of those conferences. My answer was yes. I do get something out of it. Except for the friendships, there have also been great partnerships formed there. For example, some people I met are now selling my software as affiliates.
My business, as most of you know, is software. But the same principles go for any type of business. If you want to succeed in business, it’s important to know lots of people. It’s important that people trust you and know exactly who you are and what you are doing.
These days I don’t limit myself anymore to people I accidentally meet on conferences and in online communities. These days, I actively search for new contacts to set up partnerships. I always treat these people as my friends.
And you know what’s interesting? Once you know more people, they will also introduce you to their friends, and they will say that they have an interesting idea for you to work together with someone they know. They will do this for free, just because that’s what friends do.
You already know how it works with money: Once you have lots of money it’s easy to make more. The same is also very true for business relationships. Once you know lots of people, they will introduce you to others all the time, and before you know it you meet even more people, and even get access to people you always thought would never be reachable.
So if you are serious about your business, it’s vitally important to go to events such as ESWC and participate in online communities, and at times actively pursue new contacts to help you bring your business to the next level.
Henk Devos is the founder of Whirling Dervishes Software and has a passion for software marketing. His most popular product is called Alpha ZIP. Henk also likes writing a lot, and created a series of free articles about marketing. You can get them sent to your email address by subscribing here.