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Attend Conferences Without Being There

Attend Conferences Without Being There

There are LOTS of conferences to attend, and only so much time and money to get around. For instance, I wished I could’ve dragged myself down to Austin, Texas to attend South by Southwest Interactive. But my own conference, Video on the Net is next week, and I’m busy.

So this is how I learned how to attend without being there.

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  • Live Flow- Twitter [website]– Add enough friends attending the event, as well as the official event, and you get the flow from this app. Twitter let me see which conferences were being attended by people that matter to me. It let me see which parties were where. It let me know who was hanging out with who afterwards. All of this, by the way, gives the overall sensation of what the event felt like to the people I followed, but also gave me a sense of who might be doing business with whom.
  • Visuals- Flickr [website]– I love seeing who’s there, what’s going on, and how much fun they’re having. Videoblogs can go up fast, but photos are almost instant, thanks to cameraphones and faster turnaround time to process. I just went to Flickr.com, searched on sxsw2007 (and variants), and suddenly got huge photo streams of good pictures from the event.
  • Content- Blogs- Technorati and Google Blogsearch [website] and [website]– If you want to know what was said during the events, count on the great world of liveblogging. How do you find what people have covered in the events? Swing over to technorati.com and blogsearch.google.com , and put in the tags for the event (in my example: sxsw2007). Suddenly, you get the tapestry of the blogosphere’s opinion of the event. I should also mention Techmeme, a site that captures the gestalt of the tech blogosphere, in case that’s the subject matter of your conference. (Similar aggregator sites exist for most industries, so maybe YOU can fill me in on those in the comments?)
  • Content- Videoblogs -Blip, YouTube, Google Video [Blip.tv], [YouTube], [Google Video] – More and more, conferences are being covered by videobloggers. Some conferences have rules about not covering the entire speech (after all, this content is how they make their money- and that’s important). But most of the good events allow some amount of videoblogging and off-stage interviews that help you feel there. Or, events will release all their materials after the fact onto one of the platforms mentioned above so that you can be there after the fact.
  • Content- Podcasts- IT Conversations [website] – For tech conferences, I’ve found that IT Conversations, part of the Gigavox Media network, have some GREAT coverage. I should also mention PodTech, another really great source for interesting conference coverage. You might have some suggestions for the non-tech conference circuit. If so, drop it in the comments, please, for the other lifehack types to get to see.
  • CONTACT- LinkedIN [website]– This step might not be immediately obvious, but once you know the types of people who attended the conference you wished you’d attended, you might want to add these people to your network of contacts one way or another. If you’re using LinkedIN for contacts, consider adding them to your list of contacts. With a little bit of Google sleuthing, or through some other means like their account on Flickr or Twitter, you can usually make contact and ask for a good email address to send a LinkedIN invite. This will help grow your base of like-minded people, should something of interest to discuss arise in the near future. One never knows.

There are lots of other tips I’m sure I’ve missed. I count on you to fill me in on the best stuff. But I’ve used the above to build my awareness of events, to learn some of the choice lessons I couldn’t pay to attend, or didn’t have time to visit. And I’ve found more like-minded people who then give me the buzz on the conference not to miss in the upcoming months, which is also valuable to me. I hope these work out for you. And if you can’t come to Video on the Net in a few weeks, maybe use these tips to follow the action from afar.

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Chris Brogan is Community Developer for Network2 and Video on the Net. He keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com].

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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