I had a great time this weekend in Austin, Texas for WordCamp Austin. The conference was fine – but that's not what I'm talking about. Instead, I'm talking about several events that were not part of the actual event.
I landed into town Thursday evening and the first thing I did was catch up with CodyL and his team. We ate at a great place, but more fun was talking about some of the great projects Cody's UI/UX company has been working on.
If you know me, you know that I enjoy (truly enjoy) taking people out to lunch or dinner. And so it's become a fun game to see if you can steal the check from me. The club is small. And they're way too proud of themselves. But you know who's not in the club?
The guy I had lunch with on Friday – eating fantastic BBQ. Konstantin Obenland not only picked a great place, but introduced me to the other half of the Cain & Obenland in the Morning show. They're two incredible guys and we had a lot of laughs together – including how close Konstantin got to paying for my lunch.
Friday night I went to check out Bill Erickson‘s new home and enjoyed a fine meal with friends. If you don't know Bill, he's a WordPress engineer that helps customers with their websites – by developing custom themes and plugins.
What was supposed to be a short stop – because there were two other events I was invited to that night – ended up lasting the whole night. One of the many wonderful things about his house was an incredible outdoor patio where we not only ate dinner, but also enjoyed a few fine cigars.
The schedule for Saturday's WordCamp afforded the possibility of taking a longer lunch. So we did. I invited a small group of us to join me at a Brazilian Steakhouse for lunch. If you've ever eaten at a Brazilian Steakhouse then you know that also meant I was going to need a long nap after lunch.
That wasn't the lesson of the day though – because I already knew that. What I didn't know was how long the route I chose was going to take me – resulting in my arrival after everyone else. And in this case it meant that Jared Atchison – another WordPress engineer that, like Bill, works on Genesis projects (but also does membership sites) – got to prep the staff for my antics and was able to pay for lunch.
Takeaway – always arrive first!
Which is what I did at dinner on Saturday night as I invited Jared and his wife, along with a few others to join me at the restaurant at my hotel – the Westin at the Domain (which was fantastic). There, a group of us enjoyed a great meal, dessert, and a ton of stories and laughs.
As I wrapped up the weekend, I got to enjoy a Mighty Fine burger with the new community manager of WP Engine, Odas, along with my favorite #cigarcamp friends, Kay & Shawn Hesketh, of WP101 fame.
Never Eat Alone
I'm sure by now you've caught the theme. I know some great networking folks that are fantastic about connecting with people.
When we talk about networking strategies, we all have different takes on what we do before a conference or after. We use different tools. Some of us are more extraverted, others more introverted.
But we all agree on the power of meals. We agree that when you can hang out, face to face, while enjoying a meal, you're doing several things at once: from building a memory and creating a shared experience to building trust. And all of that could be very useful downstream.
But I never eat alone for reasons beyond networking. I never eat alone because that's boring. People are amazing. They're incredible. And when I hear their stories, I learn things.
And so while I went to WordCamp Austin to share my own story in a talk on the Impostor Syndrome, I came away with a lot more than I gave. I learned a lot more than I shared.
All because I never ate alone.