You know who you are. In the card-swapping frenzy that is SXSW, I’m not surprised to have a conversation interrupted so that somebody can give me his card, and ask for mine. It was only later that it seemed like a really, really bad idea for you to give me yours.

I was catching up with a long-lost colleague when you decided to join our chat. My friend and I are┬ánice women, so we didn’t object to you interrupting us, or say anything about your open beer — though where you got a beer at 4 pm in the middle of the SXSW conference center, I still can’t figure.

And I’ll admit it: there are some introductions I can’t resist. Your badge told me that you were with one of those companies that every techie wants to know better. So I figured: know you, know your company.

For your future reference — since you seem to need some clarification — here are some handy ice-breakers and questions that fall under the umbrella of what most of us consider appropriate for a “getting to know you” conversation at a conference:

  • Were you at the [insert name of keynote speaker] talk? What did you think?
  • How’s business going for you these days?
  • I saw the coolest [gadget name] in the exhibit hall. You’ve got to check it out.
  • What sessions are you going to tomorrow? Anything that’s a must-see?
  • Someone told me the best place to get real BBQ here. It’s…

Here are some comments and questions that are not, in fact, appropriate when talking to two women you’ve never met before. They may sound familiar:

  1. Speaking of French, my wife won’t put her tongue in my mouth anymore.
  2. What do you think I should do if my wife doesn’t ever want to have sex?
  3. Maybe I could try just doing it for her, instead of trying to get mine.


  1. If the mere mention of the word “French” provokes this kind of conversational pivot, please avoid talking to Canadians.
  2. The answer is definitely not “fish for hook-ups by talking to women at tech conferences”.
  3. The fact that this you were thinking of this for the first time says a lot about problems 1 and 2.

Beer Guy, if I’m right in guessing that the beer you were holding during this conversation wasn’t your first of the day, you may be currently experiencing the sober sting of regret. You may even be freaking out and asking yourself why you gave your business card to someone wearing a press badge, and once you’d done that, why did you decide to tell her about your marital woes? (Excellent questions, by the way.)

Consider this blog post a wake-up call, the Ghost of Conferences Future. You are officially not getting busted. I am setting your business card on fire so you never have to worry about me referring to you by name. Here, see:

Flaming card

Your card, in flames

But the next time you got to a conference, consider making it a booze-free undertaking. Remember that the women you meet won’t necessarily shrug off your wildly inappropriate remarks. Some of them may be potential customers who will write off your whole company rather than risk running into you again. Others┬ámay actually find your comments painfully uncomfortable — the kind of thing that discourages them from going to tech conferences that still skew male. Any fresh insights on why that might be case, Beer Guy?