How to Meet Everybody at an Event

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Andy Crestodina

I got together with 1700 other marketers in Cleveland recently. It was Content Marketing World 2013. We were there to learn, and we were there to make connections. It was a few short days, filled with presentations and keynotes, new ideas and new faces.

The conference felt a bit like high school. Students wandered through the halls with matching orange book bags, jumping in and out of classrooms. We passed notes (mostly through Twitter) and sometimes cut class. The keynotes were assemblies and the seminars were summer school.

There were parties at night, including one with an 80s theme and a soundtrack straight from a John Hughes movie. Ah, nostalgia.

So why not have a yearbook?

The idea was simple: create a reason to meet people and create a little content. So, I bought an orange spiral notebook and wrote “My CMW Yearbook” on the cover. Over the next few days, I approached people asking them to sign. Then I took their picture. That was pretty much it.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. People responded in all kinds of creative ways.

  • Some drew pictures.
    See Hunter Boyle’s graffiti art (page 17)
  • Someone wrote a poem.
    “Roses are red, I’m in the House of Blues…” (page 43)
  • Some pretended it was a real high school yearbook.
    “I’ll always remember the yuks we had in Prof. Handley’s Class.” (page 34)

One person, Michelle Allard, volunteered to be on the yearbook committee, grabbing new people to sign, taking pictures. Thanks, Michelle! Only one person refused to sign …and he did so on page 47.

If CMW was high school, it was a short year.

It was the first day of school, followed by the last day of school. By the time it was over, I’d met and talked to more than 160 people, close to 10% of the attendees. People tweeted about it and told others to find me to sign. I had 60 pages of signatures. I also learned a few things:

  • Legibility is a good thing.
  • HAGS means “Have a great summer.” Who knew?
  • If someone doesn’t like the picture you took, let them take a selfie.
  • Cheap notebooks have thin paper and marker ink bleeds through.
  • Analog is still fun, and face-to-face communication still rules.

The big takeaway is this: a simple, collaborative idea can let people express themselves and make everyone feel like a part of something bigger. We all created something together.

Cost: $1.29
Time: Don’t ask…

Here is my CMW 2013 Yearbook.

You may see a lot of familiar faces. Sure you’ve seen their profile picture before, but have you ever seen them first thing in the morning or in a bar? Sure you’ve read their content before, but have you ever seen their handwriting after a few drinks?

Please forgive any mismatches between pictures and signatures. The process wasn’t very organized, but we did our best. Let us know if you catch any errors.

Note: When you see a note that says “lefty,” this was me asking people to make a note to remind me to add them to my Lefty twitter list. Yes, I keep a twitter list of lefties. No, I don’t have a good reason for this. But yes, if you’re a lefty, I’m happy to add you to the list.

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Comments (20)
  • I am delighted with your idea because I still think that it is not so easy to replace live communication. I really decided to use a diary a little differently, namely, I buymain events tickets like concerts and best shows and then become the first stage of further memories of events that I visited with friends. This is rather an expanded version of the filling in the diary, as new acquaintances and beautiful places are recorded, but only with a few photos.

  • This is absolutely brilliant and creative! Personally – I’m horrid at events unless I’ve got a camera in both my hands…I grip them tight before I walk into a room with more than five people inside! What a perfect icebreaker and amazing way to connect!

  • Missing you guys after another spectacular CMW! Had to come check out the 2013 yearbook and relive the memories… See you next year! 🙂

    • I like to take this post off the shelf and dust it off sometimes too. I love the picture of you and Ann. So great…

  • This was (and still is) a super-cool idea.

  • Such a wonderful idea! Glad I was able to participate.

  • Loved this idea then, and am still lovin’ it now. I’ve even seen it pop up at other events, so extra credit for starting a cool new trend my friend! Hope your holiday season’s off to a great start — I’m looking forward to next year’s entries. Cheers!

  • Love this creative approach to content at #CMWorld. Sorry I missed it. Maybe next year. 😉

  • As I’ve told you countless times, this idea is so fun and so creative – I love so much about it! So glad we connected there and I really enjoyed reading this. I can only imagine the amount of time you spent on this. Hope to see you see you before CMW 2014!

    • Thanks for playing along, Cathy! Yes, it was great meeting you too. I’m definitely planning to be there in 2014. Maybe next time, I’ll be signing your yearbook. 🙂

  • Love this simple idea. Well done, Andy!

    • Thanks for playing along, Ann! Sadly, I didn’t include the other picture of you, which I still think should be your new LinkedIn profile pic…

  • Love this idea, Andy! You were committed and followed through; so much fun to see what other attendees wrote. 🙂

    • Without that little notebook, we never would have met, Pamela! And we never would have collaborated on that interview last month. So glad you signed and so glad we connected. 🙂

  • I can never think of something as cool as what Ann Handley comes up with. *pout*

  • Hey Andy, such a great idea. Lovely to see so many friendly faces of people I met!

  • Super cool and creative… sorry I missed you there.

    • How did we miss each other, Rob? Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again!

  • “I got together with 1700 other marketers in Cleveland recently. It was Content Marketing World 2013.”

    I was thrilled to hear that Content Marketing World 2013 was being held in Cleveland, Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the event. I hope you enjoyed Cleveland. 🙂 The city is going through another revitalization.

    The Yearbook is a cool idea! This is the first time I’ve seen it and will keep it mind for writers conferences. In fact, you could have multiple yearbooks.

    • Maybe I’ll see you there next year? You and I really need to meet in person sometime, don’t you think? CMW might be a good chance…

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