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How to prostitute your information at Tech Ed/PDC or other Conferences and not get bombarded with marketing crap

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Funny Stuff, Speaking | Posted on 26-06-2006

Jason Follas, who I met at Tech Ed, posted about my winnings on his blog.   Jason stated he wished he would have signed up at more vendor booths instead of just walking past them.  This inspired me to write out some of my “Tips” below.  

When I attend a conference I am a complete vendor prostitute with my “fake information”. And yes the info I use is “fake” in that I can easily remove it and “disappear” into the depths of the Internet.  When I attend a conference it is all about winning.  Sure I am there to learn and network but my main goal is winning.  I’m not talking hats, t-shirts etc.  I’m talking the good stuff. 

To me it is no different than going to Vegas. You have to play the odds.  The more drawings and contests you enter, the better the chances are of winning.  I mean the odds are what, 1 in a few thousand?  I don’t imagine everyone signs up for everything (cough cough Jason) so it just makes my chances better.  Ok, so here’s my “tips”.

Tips on Attending Conferences
Email – Vendors mainly contact you via email and phone.  Very few will go through the trouble of sending something via the postal service.  I can’t remember anything I’ve gotten in the mail from a vendor or booth registration.  Anyway, before you leave for the conference setup an alias email account.  Create a new email alias through your domain.  Most domain hosting providers support this and if you don’t have the pleasure of running your own domain, create a Yahoo! account for example.  The trick to is it to create an alias email account that everything goes to. Something like conferencename@somedomain.com.

Phone -The phone is a little tougher but it is the typical “preferred” way vendors like, I mean LOVE to contact you.  Because of this fact you have to be a little more devious.  I use Vonage for all of my phone services.  I have 4 phone numbers with Vonage; 1 home office, 1 home, 1 dedicated fax and 1 toll free number.  I’ve been a customer of Vonage for a long time and this is just another reason why I continue to use their service.  One of the many services they offer is called the “Virtual Phone Numbers“.  I think you see where this is going.  For roughly $5 a month you can create a virtual number in another area code or market.  This feature is great for small businesses that want to run an ad in Atlanta, Ga but their home office is in Podukaville, MS.  Forwarding, another feature they offer, ties into this as well.  Through forwarding any virtual number Vonage offers can be forwarded to your cell phone or home so you don’t miss a “winning” call.

Mail – This is one I haven’t worried about but if you are really paranoid, walk into the local post office and sign up a PO Box.  It is only a few dollars a month.  Of course it isn’t a “physical” address but if you use something like Mail Boxes Etc. they have a physcial address that Fed Ex or UPS can deliver to just in case you win something.

Business Cards – Once you get your “fake information” all squared away, get some business card printed.  Laser printer + Avery + Word = New Business Cards.  The reason you need the cards is sometimes vendors want your business card.  You know, they’ll put those little fish bowls up?   You may also run into that really *weird* guy at the conference who wants to contact you after the conference.  Fake cards are great. Since you are printing your own cards you get the luxury of making up any title you want.  For technical conferences CIO is always a great choice, other’s, President or Vice President may do.  Have fun with it!

About a month after the conference, delete everything (email, phone and mail) and they have no way of contacting you.  Happy winnings! 

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