From Awkward to Awesome : How to nail your next tech networking event [bonus email templates]


A few years ago, I was one of the many people out there who absolutely hated networking events. The thought of going to an industry night or networking event was enough to send me into a mild panic, whether I was going alone or with a friend. On the rare occasion that I mustered up enough confidence to go, I would arrive at the venue only to feel my palms start sweating, my voice started cracking and I would already be eyeing the bar and the exits (in that order, yes). Basically, I had no clue what I was doing and I felt like a hot mess.

All that changed, however, once I reframed the way I thought about these "dreaded" events. I started to relax, have fun, and even make friends and contacts in the tech industry right away.

What was all the fuss about, I asked myself? I've got this. And you can too. 

I've even included free bonus email templates you can send out after your next tech networking event to help you out! You can download that below and take the awkwardness out of your email follow up right away.

Tech event follow up email templates

Want to follow up with a new friend/contact after a tech event, but aren't sure what to say?

I've got you covered!

Swipe these email templates and take the awkwardness out of your follow up today!

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Although I'm a social person, I'm also an introvert and the thought of going into a huge room where I didn't know anyone used to freak me out. I had an idea that unless I needed a job or wanted to pick up extra freelance projects, these networking or industry events weren't of much use to me.

On top of that, the tech industry isn't exactly known to be made up of the smoothest, coolest, most collected people out there. Shout out to my fellow tech nerds, we own our awkwardness!

Luckily I've become much more comfortable at tech events as the years have passed and in fact, I even look forward to them! Let me show you how changing the you think about tech networking events and industry nights will help you loosen up and get a lot more out of them as a result.

The Bad Reputation

There's no way around it, networking events and industry nights usually get a bad rep. In other industries, people might be hyper aggressive, loud and boisterous. But in the tech? You're more likely to find a bunch of dudes standing around in t-shirts drinking warm beer, avoiding eye contact and babbling on about code.

On top of that, you bet the other people in attendance only want to talk to the most important person in the room, that there will be boring speakers who drone on way longer than they should, that the food & drinks will be name it, I'm sure we've all thought it.

Once I started actually attending these tech events, however, I realized that I often had a lot in common with the other people there, that the keynote speeches weren't completely dull, and that at the very least, I could enjoy a drink and some appy's in the corner as I checked out the scene and caught up with a friend.

Whether you're attending a local startup's open house, a monthly meet-up, an industry night or a large conference, I promise you that tech events are way more fun that you thought!

Here are a few of the tips I've picked up over the years that helped me move from awkward to awesome when it comes to attended tech events. 

Be clear about why you're attending

Yes, this is number one on the list because it will help you get in the right frame of mind before you even show up.

Are you there to meet people in your industry? Are you looking for a job or do you want to pick up some freelance work? Do you want to learn more about industry trends? Have you ever been curious about a hackathon and wanted to check one out?

These are all good things to consider for every event that might make it's way into your calendar.

Personally, when I go to tech events, I know that while I'm not looking for a 9-5, I'm always open to meeting with potential clients for a project down the road. I also know that it's a lot of fun to have friends in the industry so I make a point of catching up when we get together - and meeting new people too! I'm also a self-proclaimed LLL (that's a life long learner, obvi.) so I love seeing what other people in my industry are up to and checking out how they are building and growing their businesses.

Know the event

Let me tell you from experience - if you walk into a room expecting a huge industry party, only to find out that it's an intimate event with speakers and an open discussion, you'll feel totally thrown off balance. Or how about that time when I was 21 and I thought I was going to be attending an industry event (I worked in software analytics at the time) but when I arrived, I found out it was actually a meet-up for Ruby on Rails developers? I had no clue what people were talking about, felt like a total fraud and pretty much turned around on my heels and left within minutes.

This should go without saying but be sure to read the event description before you sign up or confirm your attendance.

Take a look at the event schedule (if applicable), make note of the speakers (their name & company) and highlight any that are particularly interesting to you, and be clear on the venue and start time.

Be sure to check out the dress code so that you feel like you are presenting the best version of yourself that you can. Please don't be the person who shows up to a formal event in jeans and flip flops.

Be a connector

This is probably my favourite tip on the list, even if it is a bit generic. We all know that it is better to give than to receive, and this totally applies networking at tech events. Your fellow introverts will thank you!

Let's say you start chatting with someone who mentions that they are launching a new business and are having trouble designing their logo. Even if you can't help, can you think of someone who can? Maybe you met someone earlier in the evening who does branding or graphic design - it would be totally cool to make the introduction!

Next up, imagine you meet a new grad at the event who is looking for an engineering position. A few minutes ago when you were grabbing a drink at the bar, you chatted with an old colleague who happens to be doing something similar at a new company. Think about how grateful the young grad would be to have that intro, and even if your former colleague doesn't have any positions available on his team, he might know someone who does.

When you give without expectation of anything in return, people will remember how helpful and generous you were. Not only does that send good karma points your way, it could potentially help out a few other people too.

Ask for introductions

Along those lines, don't be afraid to put it out there that you're looking for a specific introduction or that you want to connect with someone in a particular industry / position. I've been at events where someone I knew of was in attendance and I wanted to meet them. There's no shame in politely asking a mutual contact for an intro, if the other person isn't being swarmed!

Industry events can be a great place to meet other people in your industry with whom you might collaborate on a project. You might be a web developer but maybe you need to contract out a graphic design or copywriting project. This could be your opportunity to add a few names to the list of people you work with.

Alternatively, feel free to ask other attendees if they know anyone there who you might enjoy talking to. They could introduce you to a friend or someone they met prior to speaking with you, and look at that! You're about to make a few new contacts.

Watch your booze

One of the coolest things about tech events is that they are often sponsored by a local brewery (shoutout to Postmark!) and even the free or inexpensive events usually have open bars. We've already acknowledged that us techies often aren't the smoothest people out there, so please don't rely on booze for liquid courage.

I've seen too many people get sloppy at these events, usually because they were nervous (for no reason!) and overcompensated. Stick to two or three drinks MAX and rotate in a few glasses of water. Holding an empty beer bottle isn't the end of the world, trust.

Take a break if you need one

Here's my insider tip:

Whenever I attend a tech event, one of the first things I do is take a quick lap around the room/venue. I do this to scope out the washrooms, the coat check or any other area that I can go to if I need a break. True story!

Social fatigue is a real thing, particularly for many of us in the tech industry, so give yourself permission ahead of time to take a few minutes to yourself if you need it. This allows you to come back feeling recharged and ready to tackle the rest of the event with ease.

When you feel like you need a break, you can pop over to that "break place" for a few minutes, regroup, and then head back out.

I promise that more people than you think use this technique and it can make the overall experience feel less like a marathon.

Know when to make your exit

If you're caught in a conversation that is no longer interesting or you're ready to move on, politely excuse yourself. When I want to leave and the other person isn't getting the hint, I like saying something along the lines of:

  • "It was great chatting with you but I need to make a quick trip to the washroom/check my phone!"
  • "Wow that's super interesting! I'm going to grab a refill but thanks so much for telling me all about XYZ."
  • "Really good stuff, Name. So and so looks like they want to chat with you and I don't want to monopolize your time. Thanks again!"
  • "I see my friend across the room and I want to say hi to them before the event finishes, please excuse me!"

You are never obligated to stay in a conversation longer than you want to, and if there are other people you want to chat with, you're free to do so!

I also recommend not being the last person left at the event. If you really want to keep talking with someone, grab their contact info and agree to follow up and arrange a next meeting. If you've met a group of friends and you want to carry on the festivities, make the move to a nearby bar before the event staff turn on all the lights as your final hint.

The follow up

If you genuinely enjoyed talking to someone, ask for their email address, business card or social media handles so that you can follow up with them after the event. Fire off a quick but personal email that includes the following things:

  • a reminder of where you met and any noteworthy topics of conversation
  • thank them for their time
  • follow up meeting invite (if applicable)
  • let them know how you two can stay in touch (email, social media, website link, etc.)

If you find the points above helpful, click the button below to grab your free email templates.

Tech event follow up email templates

Want to follow up with a new friend/contact after a tech event, but aren't sure what to say?

I've got you covered!

Swipe these email templates and take the awkwardness out of your follow up today!

Powered by ConvertKit

Establishing authentic relationships with the people you meet or connect with is one of the most rewarding parts about attending tech events. You can make new friends, widen your professional network, and maybe even connect people in the future. Those are wins all around!

Like almost any event, tech events and industry nights are only as good as you make them. Once you reframe the way you think about them, the pressure lightens and you can relax, enjoy the event and even meet some fun new people. Even if these events used to fill you with dread, I hope you can see that you (yes you!) can take control of any anxiety you might have and get out there and have a good time!

Now it's your turn to tell me, what do you think of tech events? Do you attend many, either in person or virtually? How do you follow up with new friends/connections? i'd love to know so leave me a note in the comments!

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