How to be awesome at conferences


I love conferences. They really helped put Gigstarter on the map. In the last two years I’ve spoken at quite a few and met some amazing people.

I used to be good at conferences but I have become great because of one man.

Conferences used to be a mixture of great and awful for me. Great when I met some fantastic people. Awful when I felt like I didn’t know anyone and had the fear of starting conversations with strangers.

One man dispelled all my fear in an instant.

His name is Brian Zisk and he runs a conference called SF Music Tech with his wife Shoshana.

I don’t think he’s awesome just because Gigstarter won an award at SF Music Tech 2014.

He’s awesome because he goes out of his way to create opportunities for people to interact.

If he’s chairing an event and there’s a delay between speakers he’ll say things like:

‘Ok, I want everyone to introduce themselves to the person to their right.’


‘Does anyone want to do a 30 second pitch from where they’re sitting.’

He arranges open mike pitches at his conference where anyone can hop up and pitch.

When you’ve got a brand new company and you want to connect with your industry Brian is incredible. I wish every conference was run by himself and Shosana.

Brian gave me one piece of advice which has transformed my conference experiences.

I’ve used this time and time again.

It sounds so simple and obvious but it helped me so much when Brian told me this so now I’m passing it on to you.

The hardest bit for me with any conversation with a stranger is how to start it.

This is what Brian told me I asked him for advice.

All you do is walk right up to the person and say, ‘Hey, what brings you here?”

​That’s it. Try it. It’s transfomed conferences from being hit and miss affairs to being awesome. All of the time. It’s the one size fits all icebreaker that never fails.

SF Music Tech happens again this November. Go. Be awesome.

​If fintech is your thing, Brian also runs the Future Of Money conference in December.

Thanks Brian, Shosana, Patti and the whole SF Music Tech crew for being so cool.

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