InterNext: A Newbies Survival Guide

Stephen Yagielowicz

"This is my first InterNext. What's it like, what should I bring, what should I do when I'm there?" It's a topic that has been covered before, yet the sage advice passed down from the mouth's of experience all too often goes unheeded, leaving a trail of devastated, hung over, broke, and mildly to wildly ill Webmasters and wannabes in its wake. If you have not yet been to InterNext, or you don't remember what happened the last time you were there, then this one's for you!

Being the kind of adult Webmaster resource site that tries to help both newbies as well as more experienced Webmasters, XBiz once again gave away a handful of tickets to the upcoming show, in the hopes of making this valuable event accessible to those who might otherwise have not been able to attend. One of our ticket winners was Stilgar, a relative newbie who is exactly the kind of Webmaster who can gain the most from the show, or be harmed the most by it, and its excesses. Wisely, he asked for some basic advice from his fellow Cosmic Villagers on what to expect, and how to prepare. The advice that he received was valuable, and well worth sharing with those who are attending their first show:

'Str8guy' shared this bit of wisdom: "I would say make it a point to meet the people running the sponsor programs you use, so they know who you are if you have occasion to need them." And wise are these words indeed, for most major sponsors might deal with well over 10,000 and even as many as 40,000 participating Webmasters. Being one in 15,000 - especially if the traffic you are sending is minimal or non-productive, puts you pretty low on the 'Totem Pole.' Meeting an account rep and establishing a relationship with him or her will not only usually get your emails answered more promptly, but special deals and additional help with your site that may not be available to just another 'unknown' Webmaster. For newbies who need a lot of personalized 'hand holding' and extensive help, buying breakfast, lunch or dinner for a rep can do wonders.

'Princess' hit the nail on the head when she said "I'd have to say meet as many people as you can, and have fun doing it! Oh, that and swing by the XBiz booth and give me *HUGS*! =)" The more you get your name (and face) out there, the more people will be ready, able (and willing) to help you, and to be helped by you. The XBiz booth is always a hub of fun activity for board regulars and lurkers alike, along with a comfortable place to exchange ideas with your peers. You can learn a lot by stopping by for a hug. :)

'PMGames' brought up a lot of valuable points, including: "Don't worry about not knowing what to say or do. The people at the booths pay money so they can solicit you. So you don't really have to have anything to offer them, and actually it is kind of taboo for you to solicit the paid solicitors." Besides 'overdoing it' and getting sick, the worst mistake that you can often make is to go to the booths and try to sell the exhibitors on your particular product or service. If you have something to offer THEM, make a contact by introducing yourself, trade business cards, and then follow up with your contact a week later when things have settled back down a bit. These people have paid tens of thousands of dollars (and often much more!) to be there, and do not want to waste their time and money listening to YOUR sales pitch!

This brings up the worst thing that you can do, which is stand in front of someone's booth (or anywhere on the show floor, for that matter), and run 'just a little demo' or some such on your laptop computer, and try to hawk your wares. This kind of 'spamming' will quite likely, and very quickly show you how lepers feel:

Paul continued: "What type of sites do you run? Depending on that answer there will be different types of booths and other people walking the floor that will be interested in talking to you. If you are really new to the biz, then the floor won't have all of your answers, but the scheduled classes will definitely help you out! Check out the schedule to see what is going on!" This brings up the issue of seminars, which is the best way to spend your time at your first show, then cruising the show floor during the 'off time.'

Paul then added his 'Top 5 Tips:'

1.) Sleep well this week, because you won't be doing much of it once you are at the show. Also, I even found myself so caught up in everything at my first show that I did not eat correctly, and also did not get enough sleep. Over a few days this really wears on the body, and that is why so many people come home with what is called "The Convention Crud." You will probably come home with one of the worst colds you ever experienced. Vitamins are very important just before going, and during the show. You need to keep your immune system up!

2.) Go with a plan or purpose. If you are going just to party, then that is fine, but there is a ton of business that can be accomplished there as well. If you don't have a real reason to be there, then it will be only a faded memory once it is over. You should have a reason or purpose on why you are going, and a plan for what you are looking to get out of the convention itself. The InterNext conventions are the big shows of the year, so there are a ton of people from all over the world that you might want to meet, or they might want to meet you, but do you have a purpose?

3.) Once you get there and register, take a break. Find somewhere quiet and look over the show's itinerary. Schedule out your time, where you want to be, and when, etc. otherwise you will get caught up into some useless 'eye candy' event and you will totally forget to do something important that you really wanted to do.

4.) This is something I am going to begin tonight, which I did before as well. For my closest friends, clients, contacts, etc. I e-mail or ICQ them and confirm that they are still going to the show, and also if they would like to exchange cell phone numbers. The worse thing in the world is to get to the show and plan to meet up with some people for some very important or fun meetings, and you actually never cross paths with them during the entire show!

5.) If you want to go to some of the parties, read their Websites, linked from the InterNext site, for any clues on how to get the tickets. Not all of them are 'by invite only,' and some of the really decent ones will not be as exclusive, but will still only give a limited number of tickets out at their booths, so it's literally "first come, first served." Also, don't get mad or be ignorant to those who carry special VIP passes to some of the more exclusive parties. If they don't know you, you are no different then the 2,000 other attendees begging them for one of their very limited tickets. They normally hold off those tickets for people that they know already, or people they would like to be able to 'schmooze over' with the intent of winning their future business. Again, don't get ugly; that person you are begging from should be someone you attempt to befriend, so you can perhaps score tickets at a future show." You're meeting those whose names you've heard all year long; people, who, in the future, may be of some service to you.

'Raven' added "In addition to what Paul has said:

1. Take comfortable clothes and shoes. It's fairly hot in Florida and you don't have to bring your tux or evening gown.

2. Have cash on you. Leave your check book and valuables at home. This is not formal.

3. Once you're there, to avoid 'the crud,' drink lots of water and orange juice. It wouldn't hurt to take vitamins. The days are long and the nights are longer, especially if you plan on imbibing!

4. Pace yourself. For those arriving before the show, make sure you get rest. Once the parties start, it's bedlam!

5. Introduce yourself to everyone. It doesn't matter if you're a sponsor or a newbie or anything in between. The whole idea is to attach your face to your nick online. Whilst it might not pay off this InterNext, it will have an impact on future conferences.

6. Get your picture taken, so those who didn't go, have a chance to see what you look like.

7. If you have business cards, bring them. You never know when you'll need them.

8. Have fun! You're meeting those whose names you've heard all year long; people, who, in the future, may be of some service to you." All of which is very valuable, and practical advice.

I'd like to finish off with a few of my own thoughts, gleaned from many shows, and experiences in the past: "It's all about balance." Select a few seminars that will discuss matters of interest to you, go over the show exhibitor's list, and highlight the booths you 'need' to visit on the provided floor map. Hit those booths first, then work the rest of the floor, taking in as much as you can... A small, portable voice recorder, or note pad, will help you keep track of things and ideas you wish to remember.

Don't be afraid to party - but do so in moderation. If you're hung over, you won't be able to function, and if you get too drunk and then puke all over your fellow party goers, you might as well find a new line of work. Don't avoid the parties, however, as they are great networking opportunities. This does not mean that you should 'corner' someone and launch into your sales pitch, or start asking them '20 Questions:' An exchange of business cards and brief 'nice to see you!' with an email follow up will do much more for you.

And please, try to avoid the stupid "Yee Haw! Look at those TITS! I'm a big-pimpin' MOFO!!!" obnoxious attitude. We all remember our first beer, and being a public a**hole will do you far more harm than good. And yes, I too, have, and (unfortunately) do, behave this way at times... But I do it with *moderation* ~ and that's the key! Good luck, have fun, and I'll see you there!
~ Stephen