How Do You Make Conferences Worth the Trip and Time?

We all know that networking can be vitally important, especially for freelancers and those with a bit of salesmanship to their jobs, but gigantic conferences like SXSW Interactive or O'Reilly Emerging Technology can seem like imposing behemoths, and even smaller gatherings can be frustrating if your crowd-working skills aren't up to snuff—which certainly holds true for your morning editor. There's always another chance to book a room and pin on a name tag coming up, though, so I turn to our more networking-savvy readers and ask: How do you set goals or keep focused on getting something worthwhile out of your time at conferences and seminars? What kind of must-have goods do you bring? Do you plan to meet certain people ahead of time, or are big gatherings a chance to play it by ear? Let's hear your advice, war stories, and suggestions in the comments.


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