Thoughts On Learning To Snowboard For The First Time


This past weekend I was in Tahoe for an isocket offsite and after spending two days inside working me and the rest of the team were excited to go hit the slopes at Squaw Valley. Seeing as it was the first time I had ever been to Tahoe I was really looking forward to trying out snowboarding, even though I had been told it was really hard to learn.

Snowboarding vs. Skiing

While renting my gear it was decision time — am I going to go skiing or snowboarding? I hadn’t done either up to this point so I could have gone either way.

“If this is your first time on the mountain you should definitely go skiing.”, said every single person I talked to. They all told me that snowboarding for the first time is hard an painful. If I was to ski I would pick it up much faster and would be able to get more time on my feet and not my butt.

I had already made the decision of what I wanted to do way before getting to Tahoe. I was going to learn to snowboard. I could tell the decision even surprised the younger guy in the hoodie who was helping me pick the right gear to rent. He was a long-time snowboarder and me going the snowboarding route seemed to put a smile on his face. As he was getting my board ready I asked him every possible question I could in an attempt to better understand what it took to ride a small piece of fiberglass down a really big mountain.

Everything Is New

When I made it to Squaw it was like landing on another planet. Huge mountains with people sliding down them, big machines that were taking them to the top and an overall style and culture that I had never experienced before. A few things I noticed were awesome looking snow pants, lots of dreads and a parking lot full of Subaru Outbacks. “Welcome to Tahoe.”, I thought to myself while walking around the ski resort.

At the bottom of the slopes we followed the rest of the herd into the tram station that was being fed by a handful of turnstiles. All of us made our way into one of the cable cars and before you know it we were practically on top of the mountain. I had my snowboard in hand like I knew what was going on but I had no clue where we were or what I should do next. Everything was new and I was figuring it all out on the fly and thanks to the rest of the guys who were with me.

Stand Up, Fall Down

I like to fall.
Me, on my butt after falling again. 

Then it was time to get down to business. I was all good with the whole “just look like I know what I’m doing” for a while but things got real once it was time to strap my boots to the board. I wasn’t even sure how to do it but even then I figured I would be able to snowboard with no problem once I was ready to go. My friend Dom showed me how it was done and before you know it there was nothing standing between me and my first run down one of the easiest trails at Squaw. I think it was called Golden Flower or something like that.

I remember my first fall being on the softer side as I was still in the area where everyone locks in their boots before carving down the mountain. I had no speed and I had barely even stood all the way up before falling all the way down.

Over the next couple hours I fell down more times that I can remember. In fact, I don’t want to remember them at all because they really started to hurt. A lot. Dom being the awesome friend he is stuck with me through these first two hours and helped me as much as anyone could. But I just kept falling and getting up. Falling and getting up. It was tiring, it was embarrassing and I was only a few shoulder, wrist and butt plants away from giving it up completely. Dom was nothing but encouraging but every man has his limits.

In those couple of hours we only used the lifts twice. It was exhausting and painful for me and had to be just as bad for poor Dom.

The Breakthrough

I was just happy to be there.
It felt good to finally figure it out. 

Just before lunch there was a magical moment that happened. Something Dom said finally stuck and from that point on I felt like I had control of the board and started going faster and faster without falling down. I still caught an edge here and there or lost balance while trying to get started but I was able to snowboard down the entire path that once took me an hour in less than ten minutes. I guess you could say it was my Neo/Matrix moment and it felt incredible.

For the next few hours after lunch I was on my own and things only got easier. I even got to the point to where I could snowboard straight into the entrance of the lift and didn’t have to unclip my bindings to make it in there. It’s the little things.

It Was Worth The Pain

I rode the lift many more times after that and had an amazing time. I was finally able to snowboard on my own and even though it took me falling down more times than I would have liked it was totally worth it.

Getting to the point to where I could feel the speed of the mountain was awesome and I can’t wait to do it again. From here on out it’s only going to get easier and if you’re thinking about giving snowboarding a try I say go for it. I have some ideas on how to make it even easier (and less painful) to learn for first timers but I’ll save those for another day.

Photo credit: My fantastic instructor, Dom


First Time To Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
My view from Tahoe. Amazing.

I’ve been living in Northern California for over five years and for some crazy reason I’ve never been to Tahoe. This weekend, me and the rest of the isocket customer team have rented a house right next to the lake and it’s amazing.

I don’t know why it took me so long to make this trip but I’m giving snowboarding a shot on Sunday so that should be pretty interesting. My friend Bobby gave me some tips on how no to crash and burn too much and I’m hoping he knows what he’s talking about.

“It’s all about balance.”, he told told me. Sounds easy enough and I’ll be sure to give you an update on how it goes.

Have an awesome weekend everyone and I’ll be in touch soon.

photo credit: Brady Crandall

The Big 3-3 And What This Last Year Has Meant To Me

Happy 33!

First question, when did I hit 30? Second question, am I really 33 already? According to my Facebook wall, random texts from Congo and future phone calls from friends and family it’s true so who’s to say otherwise? Ok, I’ll admit it — I’m creeping into my mid-30s. I guess the only thing that’s good about this whole “getting older” thing is that this past year was most likely one of the most positively transitional times of my life. Meaning, even though there was plenty of struggle for me in the past 365 days (you have no idea), last year was amazing to experience and I feel more blessed now than ever. In other words, I’m pretty sure I’m in my prime.

So what are some of the thing that have made my last year so valuable to me? I’m sure I could write a million things and go page after page but none of us really want that. We’re all busy people with limited time, which is why I’m happy to give you a Cliff Notes version instead.

To all of my friends and family who have been there for me over the past year, you’ll never have any idea what your love and support has meant to me. I love you and I hope you already knew that without me having to tell you in a blog. Moving on…

Learning what loving someone really means. There are plenty of ways to show that you love someone but the most powerful way is by doing what you know is right and fighting for what you believe. Always keeping someone happy isn’t loving them. Being honest, sacrifice and never letting go is love to the fullest.

Studying the Bible. I’m a strong believer that if I’m going to put my faith in Jesus Christ then I had better know what I’m signing up for. The Bible is the center of following Christ and although I feel a strong spiritual connection I didn’t feel like I knew enough about the word. To learn more about it I’ve been going to Bible Study Fellowship in SF for the past few months and it’s been a great way to dig deeper into my faith.

Becoming a morning person, for real. I’ve never been a morning person but as I got older and had more responsibility I felt like getting up early was the only option for squeezing in everything into one day. It’s been tough and I don’t always stick with it (like when I was in Indiana for the holidays) but I’m not well aware of the amazing benefits getting up at the crack of dawn and it’s becoming more of a habit every day.

Meeting Mo. Wow, what can I say about Mo other than the fact that he’s been one of the biggest blessing’s I’ve ever had in my life. If you would have told me that becoming friends with someone who’s homeless would end up shaping me into a man more than everything else in my life combined I would have called you crazy. The work that God is doing on Mo is nothing short of a miracle and how the relationship has challenged me personally isn’t too far behind. Of course, the fact that our story went viral all over the world was pretty crazy, too. That’s still hard to believe.

Realizing the value of real relationships. My entire life it’s been really easy for me to become friends with lots of people. What hasn’t always been easy for me is creating strong, personal and meaningful relationships with the people in my life who really matter most. This past year of my life I’ve focused on taking the time and making the effort to show those who mean the most to me how much I love them and all I hope is that they’ve noticed.

My connection to Congo. I’m really not sure how it happened but somehow, someway I’ve developed an amazing connection to Congo and the amazingly beautiful people who live there. Traveling there for the second time last year was an incredible experience for me and the time I was able to spend with my Congolese brothers and sisters is something I hold very dear to my heart. If you haven’t seen me dancing while in Congo I suggest you take a look, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I have a feeling my story with Congo isn’t close to being over and I can’t wait to see where God takes it next.

Seeing isocket grow into a real company. A little over three years ago I was the first employee at a small, unknown online advertising startup called isocket. I had no idea what I was doing and I knew nothing about the online advertising world but for some reason I felt like what we were doing was important and that our fearless leader, John Ramey knew exactly what he was doing. A couple rounds of funding and about fifteen more employees later we’re building a business that’s leading what’s predicted to be a multi-billion dollar market.

Killing caffeine. I’ve tried to kick the habit of downing Big Gulps full of Dew, brewing K-cups and heading to Starbucks but I always came back. A month or so I ago I decided for the last time that I’m done with caffeine and this time I’m sticking with it. When I’m in shape I don’t need it, I don’t like feeling dependent on it and it only makes me more anxious and over-energized anyway. If you know me you already know I’ve got plenty of energy to burn so cutting out caffeine was really the only option for me.

Dedicating time to writing. I guess this is becoming more apparent as I write more posts like this one you’re reading right now but I’ve been writing more than ever over the past year (and especially over the past couple of months). It’s a great way for me to get my thoughts together and I’m a believer in the power of sharing experiences with others as a way to help them with the things they’re dealing with in their lives. We were never meant to go through things along and getting my thoughts and experiences out to the world can only help.

I’m sure I missed some stuff but these are the handful of things that immediately came to mind when thinking back at all of the awesome things that have happened to me during my thirty-second year on this crazy planet of ours. I’m feeling great going into my thirty-third and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you have anything you would like to share with me on my birthday, I’d love to hear from you. I really appreciate you taking the time to stop in and spend time in my little corner of the internet and I can only hope that your past year was as fun and fulfilling as mine. Happy birthday to me and we’ll catch up soon.


photo credit:


Everyone Needs To Learn How To Use Technology

I don’t care what your major is in college or what you’re into. Whether you like to take apart cars, do accounting, cook cupcakes or take care of animals there’s one thing that you’re going to have to be good at — technology. Are you going to be a programmer or engineer? Most likely not, but whatever job you end up doing I can guarantee that not only will you be using technology but you’ll be using it a lot.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen our economy lately and the types of jobs that are now in high demand but let me drop some knowledge on ya — they all touch technology. I live in San Francisco in the middle of Silicon Valley and I can tell you that we sure as heck haven’t noticed any drop in jobs or a lack of demand for businesses hiring (we’re hiring fifteen people at isocket). It’s insane out here and it’s only because software is eating the world. Either you’re doing the eating or you’re being eaten. It’s that simple.

The jobs that were once the foundation of America are no longer relevant and our economy has completely shifted. It’s not hard to see this trend of technology taking over and it’s been happening at an accelerated rate ever since the Internet came along more than ten years ago. This is why I’m seriously blown away by the fact that every person in this entire country who has the means to do so isn’t learning how to be part of it. Why are people not learning (or being taught) technology?

It’s been a while since I’ve been in college but from what I can tell it’s the same thing for most schools these days. You come in as a freshman, take a bunch of classes that don’t really matter and then after a while you might take a few that actually provide some value to you once you’re in the real world. I know that colleges need to make their money and this isn’t going to change any time soon. But this doesn’t stop me from asking why in the world wouldn’t every, single person who goes to college not learn some type of technology that will benefit them in the future?

I’m not talking about Microsoft Word and PowerPoint — those are a given. There are literally third graders in Palo Alto who can put together a PowerPoint and edit a video better than I can. I’m not even kidding. I’m talking about creating apps, writing on a blog, understanding real technology and being able to at least wrap your head around what’s going on under the hood. Every student in college should write a blog, every student should be able to create an app and when they graduate from college they shouldn’t even need to send out a resume. Employers should be able to see what they’re interested in, see their work and get a feel for what type of employee they would be just by seeing what they have online.

Twilio, one of the fastest growing startups in the world would agree with me, they make every employee create a working Twilio app when they’re hired. If you’re in accounting you make an app and if you’re the new VP of Marketing you make an app. Everyone makes an app and it’s awesome. The most popular app that’s ever been built by a Twilio employee was the brilliant idea of my buddy Michael, who was their PR guy at the time. Love it.

One last thing to prove my point, I’ve had a wide variety of jobs in my lifetime. I’ve sold computers at BestBuy, helped with IT at a construction company and I’m now helping build an online advertising startup. With all of these jobs there’s been one thing that’s helped me really stand out and that’s the fact that I know my stuff when it comes to technology.

Everyone should be learning technology and this needs to happen now before we’re all left behind (or eaten). Nom. Nom.


Always Selling Something New That No One Understands

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes working for startups so different, challenging and awesome all at the same time. The one thing that keeps coming to mind the most is the fact that when you work for a startup that’s doing something different you’re always selling something new that no one understands.

In most jobs you have a very specific role that is based upon working on or selling something that’s already understood. For example, you might work at a construction firm and your job is to build relationships with people who need a building built. Most people already know what a building is and whether or not they want to build one, you just need to find them and convince them that you’re the best option.

Or maybe you’re an account manager at a business that sells clothes or cars or food. Your job isn’t getting people to understand why they need these things, that was already done a long time ago. Instead, your job is to do it over and over again in an efficient, organized and consistent way.

This is the complete opposite of working at a startup. At a startup you’re bringing a new product or service to the market that no one really asked for but your goal is to make it something that people can’t live without. Think about that for a minute. Your entire job and overall business is something that’s not proven, isn’t being asked for and will need to be explained over and over and over again. Sounds like fun, huh?

For me, the act of building something from nothing through scrappy problem solving and creativity is the fun part. At isocket I’ve been able to see us grow from two people to fifteen and very soon we’ll be to thirty (yep, we’re hiring) and it’s all happened by pushing a product to market that’s never been done before.

All of this has happened by consistently selling (and building) something new that no one understands. The first two and a half years when we were talking about building the industry’s first programmatic direct deals platform for display advertising people thought we were nuts. We wouldn’t shut up about it but the market just wasn’t responding. We had a feeling it was going to take a while to turn the market into believers so we did what any other good startup does, we just kept on pushing towards not what people wanted but what we believed.

Now things are different and we’re not the only ones talking about it, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped selling things that people don’t understand. I still do it every day and I expect to do it for at quite a while longer. The reality of working at a startup is that once someone gets what you’re doing you’re already working on something else that’s one step closer to where you really want to be. It’s a never ending cycle but it’s what make startups both exciting and demoralizing all at the same time. One day you’re up, one day you’re down but you’re never doing something boring.

If you’ve ever thought about creating or joining a startup I guess you should ask yourself if you’re ok with selling things to people that you know they’re most likely not going to understand (at least for a while). You’ve got to be ok with doing it over and over until you finally make it to the point to where the market understands you and your product is something that they see value in. History shows that it doesn’t happen to very many startups but the ones that get there will never experience anything like it.

With the $8M investment that me and the rest of the isocket team just announced we’re one step closer to getting to where we want to go. It’s been a great ride so far and I’m blessed to work with so many awesome people. Every day I go into the office and face new challenges and problems that no one has ever tried to figure out and yes, I’m always selling something new that most people still don’t understand (but they’re getting there).


Explain Yourself

For a long time in my life I never had to explain myself. If I made decisions I just did whatever I wanted and that was it. No reasons were needed whenever I did this or bought that. When I went here or went there. I had no one I reported to. I never had to explain myself. I’m guessing that most people’s college years and twenties were/are similar to this. Do what we want, when we want.

At this point in my life though that’s changed a lot. One of the places I notice it the most is my job at isocket. Working at a startup is a lot different than working at a big company. At a big company you’re told what to do most of the time and have a very specific role you’re filling. This means that there’s not a whole lot of explaining why you make certain decisions and most of the time you’re not making them on your own. At isocket it’s the complete opposite.

An example of explaining myself at work would be communicating to the team that we need to add a certain feature to our product as soon as possible. Once communicated, I would be asked why I feel like we need to add it, the evidence that I’ve seen in the market, the impact that adding this feature to our product would have on our business and why this certain feature is should be prioritized ahead of other features that we already have in our roadmap. In other words, I would need to clearly explain myself and why I felt the way I did about this new feature. Conversations like this happen multiple times a day at isocket and it’s something that any early employee at a startup needs to be able to handle.

Decisions that would take other companies weeks or months take us only a few minutes. But, with this speed and freedom comes a lot more accountability. Being able to articulate why you want to do something and what it will mean to our business is critical when making important decisions very quickly. This is really what being at a startup is all about. It can get a little crazy at times, but I can guarantee you’re never going to be bored.

Another good example of explaining myself is when I make decisions in my marriage and other relationships that are important to me. Making a decision is easy, but thinking about why you made it and being able to explain the reasoning behind it is what’s hard. But, the more you can facilitate these types of conversations in a healthy way the more you’re going to be able to understand others and the more they’re going to understand you.

Explaining yourself in a personal relationship is actually pretty similar to how it happens in business but the topics are going to be much different. For example, my wife might wonder why I took a certain route to IKEA instead of the way that she would usually go. This doesn’t seem like something that’s a big deal, but being able to explain even the smallest of decisions is important. Being able to say that I took a different route because I thought that there would be a lot of traffic the other way due to the time of day would be a simple and straight-forward explanation. Of course, how she accepts my explanation is important but that’s not in my control. I gave my honest explanation and it’s up to her how she handles it.

Sometimes going through this process isn’t easy and being asked to explain yourself can make you feel like you’re being attacked for no reason. More times than not this isn’t the case and it’s up to you to be able to give the reasoning behind the things that you’re doing. If you can’t explain your decisions or simply don’t want to that’s your choice but your viewpoint or way of doing things won’t be nearly as respected as if you did.

Between being married and working at isocket over the past few years this has been a real learning experience for me and I still struggle though it sometimes. But I know that figuring out a way to confidently give my honest reasoning behind the choices that I make will only help me become a better and stronger communicator. Boo yah.


Learn To Enjoy The Grind

Sometimes I find myself looking at amazing things that people have accomplished and fall into the trap of only appreciating what I’m seeing at that moment. Take the Olympics for example, those athletes are amazing and they look so cool doing their thing on the world stage. They’re the best of the best and I’ve found myself infatuated with watching them perform at the highest level possible.

I’ve never been so excited in my life to see someone do the backstroke than when 17 year-old Missy Franklin grabbed her gold medal. I was literally cheering on my couch. For swimming.

Seeing her grab that gold was really awesome but trying to imagine what all she went through to get there really blows me away. I played basketball at a Division II level on scholarship and I know how much time and effort it took me to get there. Now multiply that by about a thousand and you’re should be in the ballpark of what one of these Olympians have put themselves through to be in London.

I call all of the practices they didn’t want to wake up for, all the injuries they never wanted to have and all of the things that they missed due to the time commitment of being at their level “the grind”. They’ve gone through the grind and have made it through to the other side to show all of us what can happen when you stare it in the face and, amazingly enough, enjoy it.

Did they enjoy all of it? No way, they are human after all. But they learned to like and at least respect the grind that they knew would eventually separate them from everyone else at every, single level of competition. These are some physically gifted human beings but what helped them get to where they are is the grind. No one sees the grind but it’s the most important thing.

I’m not sure how this post turned into an ode to the Olympians but hey, that’s what happens when you’re writing and just go where your thoughts lead you while typing away on the train. I’ve been personally thinking about the different grinds in my life (work, relationships, fitness, faith, etc.) and have been working hard to not just make it through them, but to respect and even enjoy them. It’s amazing how it can change your attitude and help you see things more clearly in your life.

Don’t avoid the grind, learn to enjoy it.

One more thing, if you want another good example of a real person (a non-Olympian) putting this way of thinking to work, be sure to check out Randall Degges’ post about how he’s learned to see his grind of losing weight and being healthy as an opportunity to better himself. Nice work, dude.

photo credit:

The Benefits Of Getting Up Early

Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not a morning person. When I was younger and living with my parents I never had a designated time when I had to go to bed. I can remember being in elementary school and laying with my dad watching Johnny Carson kill it on the Tonight Show. That guy was hilarious.

In college me and my dorm mates were known on our floor for consistently making 2am trips to the closest Steak ‘N Shake. After college I was practically paid to stay up late. I worked as a bouncer, bartender, party promoter and online community evangelist which meant that there were lots of nights that I didn’t sleep at all. Caffeine was my partner in crime and I was the farthest thing from being a morning person. I was a night owl and it was a hard lifestyle to keep up with. Would I ever get up early? Sure I would, but burning the candle at both ends can only last so long and I would eventually crash for sometimes an entire weekend at a time.

At this point I’m a different person, or at least I’m trying my best to be. Even though it’s not something I’m great at I like getting up early now. From a work perspective it makes me more productive and there’s just something about being one of the first people to the office. Getting a head start on the day has never been a bad thing, but it’s not easy to do.

I also like to get up early on weekends, especially now that I’m running more and training for the San Francisco Marathon. There’s really nothing more energizing then getting up and getting an early run in before you start your day.

Seeing the sun starting to come up and getting a workout in before most people are hitting snooze for the first time just makes me feel good. It also takes the pressure off of squeezing in a workout after work which can be a real pain and often ends up in me skipping it altogether. Knocking out my runs in the morning guarantees that they get done and gives me energy for the rest of the day. I walk into work feeling like a boss and I can do whatever I want once I clock out for the day.

Tips For Getting Up Early

Say what you want, but there are some serious benefits to getting up early and I’m just starting to get to a place where I’m taking advantage of them consistently. I’m no expert when it comes to getting up and moving, but here are some tips that might help you get there:

1. Set early calls/meetings: If you set early meetings you’re motivated to get up early. There’s no sleeping in when you’re locked into an 8:30am conference call about this month’s TPS Reports.

2. Don’t hit snooze: The snooze button is your enemy and it’s benefits definitely don’t outweigh it’s costs. If you need some extra motivation to not hit that extra ten minutes of nap time these four tips by Austin Hatfield might do the trick. It also never hurts to move your alarm across the room so you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off. It might sound crazy, but it works.

3. Go to bed early: You want to get up earlier? Go to bed earlier. We all need different amounts of sleep and you know more than anyone how much that is. Shut off your Facebook, Netflix video games or whatever else you’re wasting time on at night and go to bed.

4. Start running: Running (or walking, biking, working out, etc.) is an amazing way to wake up in the morning and it will give you some extra motivation to get yourself moving. There are some pretty sweet benefits to getting your Forrest Gump on in the morning, too.

5. Drinking only makes it harder: The only thing harder than getting up early is getting up early after you’ve been drinking.

Do you have to be a morning person? Of course not. If you feel ok about staying up late and getting up later then more power to ya. I personally feel better when I get up early and I know it’s the best way for me to start the day and that’s why it bothers me when I don’t follow through with doing it. We’re all different and figuring out how you work best is the first step in getting the most out of your day and feeling like you can take on the world with the energy you need.

Thanks to the guys at Fangbot for the photo and more awesome tips on getting up early (and feeling like you can slay a dragon).


Needing Someone In New York City

Last week I was in New York City (NYC) for an ad conference and it was the first time that I’d been there in a long time. If you’ve never been to NYC it’s pretty much just like you hear about — crazy, fast-paced and awesome. It also happens to be the epicenter for all things advertising since many of the largest advertising agencies call it home. Just like tech in Silicon Valley and entertainment in LA, advertising in NYC is where it’s at.

Over the past couple of years that I’ve been working at isocket we’ve talked a lot about how we need to have a team in NYC, but I never really knew why. I mean is it really that important?

After spending a few days in the Big Apple I can definitely say yes, we need someone in NYC, and we need it big time. With all of the ways that people can connect these days, we tend to forget the power of just being there and showing up. Simply being part of the NYC advertising community is so important for isocket that it’s worth it to have someone there literally 24/7. Things are happening, deals are being made and money is exchanging hands — and a lot of it is being driven by personal relationships that are built face-to-face.

Before I saw it firsthand I knew that having a full-time person representing us in NYC was important, but I never really knew just how important it really was. Things are moving faster than ever and we need to make sure to have someone there as much as possible, as soon as possible. If you think that you might be a fit for being the first person to represent isocket in NYC (or you know someone else who could be), then you should check our job posting over here and let us know.

Prepare, Relax and Rock Out: 3 Simple Rules For Conference Success

Even in the digital age of social networking, Tweeting and webinars there’s still an important place in the world for conferences and other events that allow people to meet face-to-face. It doesn’t matter if you’re in pre-cast concrete or a heart surgeon somewhere there’s a conference that’s made just for you. There are lots of benefits to going to a conference where you can meet and hang out with other people in your industry (or with similar interests), but they’re also a big commitment.

They can a lot of fun, but the time it takes to go to a multi-day conference and the money it costs you or your business means that you need to maximize your experience as much as you can — all without over-thinking it and trying too hard. I’m far from an expert, but after getting a handful of conferences under my belt and talking to other people who go to them a lot, I’ve come up with 3 rules to make sure that you get what you want from your next conference. The 3 rules are simple — Prepare, Relax and Rock Out and here’s what they mean.


Of the 3 rules, this is the most important and ironically enough the least followed. This is because it’s the one thing that’s time sensitive and requires some thought long before arriving at your conference of choice.

Preparing for the conference can mean different things depending on who you are and what conference you’re going to, but more times than not it includes setting up meetings and making sure that no matter what you have the chance to connect up with who you need to.

The first thing you need to figure out before you set up any meetings is what conferences you’re going to so that you can start reaching out to the right people. The earlier you can lock yourself into the conference, the better, so don’t wait around to buy your pass if you already know you need to be there. Another benefit of buying your pass earlier is that it’s usually cheaper and saving some cash never hurts.

A rule of thumb that I use is that you should have all of your meetings set up for your conference at least two weeks in advance. It won’t always happen this way, but if you can start reaching out to who you want to connect with 3-4 weeks beforehand it will greatly increase the chances of you getting the meetings you need. It’s going to take some time, but you need to make the time for it. Respect the process and make sure that you stay on top of everything so that you maximize your time while you’re there.

Once you start booking the meetings make sure to send a meeting request to all of the people involved so that you’re all on the same page. If someone doesn’t accept then it’s your job to send them a reminder so that they have it on their calendar.

The amount of meetings you need to set depends on how much time you have and how much of the conference you actually plan on going to. If you’re there more to learn than to network then leave yourself some time for going to panels, keynotes and workshops. If you’re there just to network then make that the priority and pack in the meetings as much as you can. Just be careful with the early mornings – odds are you’re going to be out late (see rule #3).


This rule is easy in theory, but hard in practice. It’s easy to think of conferences as an unending source of leads that you need to maximize as much as possible. Trying to meet/pitch as many people as you can sounds like an awesome idea, but it’s not something that you want to do from a personal networking perspective. If your goal is to maximize your exposure at the conference you either need to come up with an amazing PR stunt (be careful with these) or buy your way into it by becoming a sponsor (which can work out well).

Instead of spreading yourself too thin and risking becoming annoying in the process you should relax and focus on having deeper conversations with the people you meet. Not everyone is going to be exactly who you’re trying to connect with, but that’s why you set the meetings ahead of time. With the meetings you’ve already set up you already made it worth the trip to the conference, so relax and meet some other people who seem interesting to you.

This rule of relaxing is important because you can’t always expect an instant ROI form the people you meet — that’s just not how conferences work. Some of the people who have helped my business the most are the ones who I ran into randomly, so relax and have fun talking with the people you meet.

Rock Out

Yep, I saved the best for last. The last rule is the most fun, but it can also pay off for you big time. Every conference that I’ve ever gone to has had one thing in common — people are always ready to party. Whether it’s a cocktail hour, official conference get together or after party one thing that you need to be ready for is rocking out.

When it comes to conference parties there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. First, just show up. You’re going to be tired and your comfy bed might sound like a fabulous idea, but you need to take advantage of the party scene even if you don’t feel like it. I’m not saying that you need to stay out until 5am, but you do need to make an appearance and mingle for at least a little while. Don’t worry, once you have a couple drinks and start chatting you’ll be fine.

Here’s a video of me and my main man Jason Shen at a conference in Las Vegas. It never hurts to stand out a little bit, too.

Speaking of drinks — secondly you should feel free to drink, but don’t get too drunk. You know the difference and so does everyone else at the party. There’s nothing wrong with loosening up a bit with a couple drinks, but you still need to be on your game when it comes to talking about your business. Have fun, but don’t be that guy.

Last, but not least, you need to pace your partying according to whatever you can handle. If you’re not normally the party guy and you need 7-8 hours of sleep to function, then you should probably stay away from the party-till-the-sun-comes-up after party that you’re thinking about going to. Partying, like anything, is an acquired skill and rocking out too hard early on can make the rest of your conference miserable. If you have fun and pace yourself you should make it to the end with no problems.

If you follow these rules then you’re going to put yourself in the best position to get the most out of your conference. Just keep in mind that conferences are different than your normal day-to-day work, so they require a different kind of focus before and during the event. Preparing before you go, relaxing while you’re there and rocking out when you can will make sure that the conference is a success for you so just have some fun and the rest will fall into place.

If you have any other conference suggestions I’d love to hear them — let me know your thoughts in the comments below!