Collision Conference 2022 — As a Senior in High School
tl;dr: Having an active Github opens the door for opportunities, and people are more helpful than you may initially think!
I knew that tech conferences were a way to “get to know people in the industry” and “network”. I had no idea what those words meant in the context of my goals, and I’d never been to a tech conference before.
When I saw that Websummit was hosting their 2022 Collision Conference in my hometown of Toronto, I knew it’d be a good idea to attend.
When I saw that they were giving away free tickets to developers, I knew I had to attend.
Developer tickets were given out on the basis that you were active on Github, and it seemed that I made the cut. (Woohoo!)
I knew that if I wanted to get the most out of this conference, I needed to have clarity on why I was there, and what I was going to do to achieve it.
I had many friends from The Knowledge Society that were attending the conference, some were giving talks, or going to meet people related to the project they’re working on.
I, on the other hand, was not working on anything in particular that required external help, nor was I scheduled to give a talk (although, I would’ve loved to).
I figured that the best intention that I could have for the 4 days of the conference would be to get my name out there and let people know who Saad Khalid is.
But this isn’t enough for an intention, I needed some actionable goals that I could work towards over the conference.
So, I decided that I would have a meaningful conversation with 50 people throughout the conference, and get their contact information. Getting contact information was important because
- It aligned with my intention of ‘making myself known’
- It would allow me to keep them updated on what I was working on
- It would open up doors for serendipity
I made a Notion spreadsheet to log every interaction that I had at the conference, with every person’s name, as well as their contact info.
I kept another column in my spreadsheet, which was for notes. I would write ways I could provide value to the person. This could look like
- Connecting VCs to interesting startups (or vice-versa)
- Connecting hiring managers to developers
- Facilitating partnerships between interesting startups
It’s important to not attend events like these to only gain value for yourself. Unless you’re someone that’s already super interesting (which I was not), there is little reason for anyone — especially someone you might want to connect with — to keep in touch with you unless value flows both ways.
Even the gesture of asking “Is there anyone here that I can introduce you to?” shows that you are not simply there to ask, but to give back as well.
What I wish I did differently
I wish I had spent more time doing research into who I could talk to beforehand. Researching interesting companies and founders would’ve let me have more context before talking to people.
Instead, what I ended up doing was approaching random people and asking them questions about themselves. The questions usually went like this.
- What’s your name
- What’s your intention for being at collision?
- Is there anything you need help with?
These questions were deliberate and designed to make conversations interesting.
For the next conference I attend, I’m going to write down the top 10 most interesting people that I’d like to talk to, and spend some time looking into what they do, and what they’d likely want to talk about.
This would let me skip the part of the conversation where they introduce themselves and show that I’ve done my homework beforehand.
My Favourite Parts of the Conference
By far, the most value in these sorts of events can be found in the exclusive lounges. For Collision, this was the Forum lounge, where executives, investors, and speakers would spend their time, while general attendees would be on the main floor.
Having conversations with people in the forum lounge was infinitely more valuable than those on the main floor, (it was also where I met Thomas Dohmke!)
Although everyone looked busy, most people were happy to have a conversation about their work, but here it was infinitely more valuable to provide value in return.
No CEO or C-Suite executive wants to waste their time on a meaningless conversation. So it was far more important for me to be intentional while approaching them.
Aside from the Forum lounge, going up to company booths and learning about new startups, or getting the inside scoop at some bigger companies was interesting.
After hours was where things got interesting, I went to 2 of the 3 scheduled after-hours events and found that people were a lot more chill, to say the least.
I met some interesting people and had much longer conversations than during the conference. It may have been because most people were not actively trying to meet as many people anymore, but rather trying to unwind before heading back to their hotels.
It was also nice to “break out” of character and use a more casual tone while speaking to people. Conversations sounded a lot more like those you’d have with your friends, rather than with a colleague.
Tech conferences are fun. So fun that I almost didn’t mind the heat while waiting outside at the food trucks, or the soreness from standing around all day.
I’ll definitely be investing some time in attending more large tech conferences in the future; I wish I’d found out about their amazing potential sooner.
I learned so much as well, It’s hard to keep updated with the current state of the tech industry. I never knew how many talented tech workers and interesting startups existed in the city of Toronto!
Hope you enjoyed reading this, my website with all my socials is below