Thursday, April 2, at the Tenley Campus of American University in DC, saw another sold-out edition of the successful Social Matchbox DC networking event, headed up by Robert and Juliana Neelbauer. (See Shashi’s event preview blog post.)

Shot of the crowd in between sessions.

Washington Post tech columnist Kim Hart has a good event writeup, which features a photo from our own Shashi (you can see even mo’ bettah pictures in his Flickr set from the event). So what’s left unsaid for me?

I did grab a chance to have a quick talk with founder Robert Neelbauer, so I’ll post that in a subsequent entry. Here now, are just a few shotgun-style personal observations:

* Social Matchbox is a little more structured than other types of tech networking events; established companies, startups, and even not-quite-startups do three-minute presentations (hence the unofficial “speed dating for geeks” slogan), interspersed with opportunities for attendee networking. (It typically ends with an open-mike segment, though it was cut this time due to time constraints.)

* Business opportunity: Pre-event presentation coaching. Considering some of the cringe-inducing performances I’ve seen over the years, including any number of low-talkers, pocket-jinglers, and generally incomprehensible speakers, I’m thinking this is gold.

The presenters this time around were pretty good, though there’s always room for improvement, and there are enough things out of a presenter’s control to worry about (remember, every room, AV setup, and audience is different).

If you’re going to present, rehearse, preferable with video — friends may lie, but video doesn’t. Neither do stopwatches, lest you run afoul of timekeeper Juliana:

Juliana Neelbauer and her iPhone stopwatch.

At the very least, pay attention to other folks so you know what the room sounds like, or have a confederate there to give you the high sign when your volume goes too low.

Also, it’s not usually wise to forgo the microphone — even if you project well, they might need it if the event is being recorded or streamed.

* Everyone was issued a MingleStick to use, a contact info-swapping device of the type that I denigrated in my earlier post about managing contacts:

MingleStick contact swapping device

It seemed to work okay — once you’re registered in, point at another MingleStick and click to swap info. But the novelty wore off quickly, and I like having context, even if it’s scrawled on the back of a business card. I guess I’m hopelessly analog that way.

I do note that we had to turn in the devices at the end of the night, and I still haven’t gotten my contacts to the e-mail address I provided.

* Several companies slotted to present were no-shows. Like with many raffles, hey, you gotta be present to… present. I was mildly tempted to jump on stage and spout nonsense on their behalf.

* One of the companies presenting (Root Orange) was in “stealth mode.” It’s hard to do a pitch for something when you can’t talk about it. If you have a personal track record, that’s something, but otherwise, there just isn’t a lot for other people to go on.

* DubMeNow, was another company looking to build a better mousetrap for contact swapping and management, using smart phones and other mobile devices. I still don’t get why people have such a big problem with business cards.

Anyway, it was a good event, though I didn’t stick around for the dinner afterwards. Check out the Social Matchbox site for a full list of presenters, including video interviews. And stay tuned for my own interview with founder Robert Neelbauer.

Were you at the event? Are you vehemently anti-business card? Got a tale of presentation woe you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.

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    • http://www.socialmatchbox.com Bob

      Thanks for the write-up. People may also want to check out the post-presentation interviews and photos taken by others that are now up at SocialMatchbox.com. Mingle360 sent out emails to everyone who who turned in their MingeSticks yesterday so check your inbox for details there.

    • http://www.joelogon.com/blog joelogon

      Bob — yes, I got my Mingle360 mail on April 7. Thanks for hosting.

    • http://www.joelogon.com/blog joelogon

      Bob — yes, I got my Mingle360 mail on April 7. Thanks for hosting.

    • http://www.socialmatchbox.com Juliana Neelbauer

      Joe, I really enjoyed re-reading your coverage of the 2009 Social Matchbox event today, and it IS interesting that no business card replacement tool has taken hold with networkers two years later. I agree that context is king when it comes to harvesting value from professional intros, and I would add that there's something fundamentally important about the gesture of receiving and giving the tangible “gift” of a physical card. The exchange of business cards between prior strangers is a symbol of how both parties agree that they also exchanged goodwill and an invitation to do business during an enjoyable conversation. Even mobile apps haven't resolved the absence of a physically exchanged gift (or receipt?) as the chat ends, since phone bumps and taps don't leave parties with a tactile object. Drawing upon your reference to context, it's easier to remember a person whose business card lingers in your pocket the next day and easier to forget the unique nature of each chat, when an app turns those conversations into a uniform list of new contacts or, worse, buries the person in your existing address book. When receiving a business card, I take the context consideration a step further and the exchange as an invitation to take notes with the business card as the notepad. If in the years since Social Matchbox, you have found a business card killer app that you love and successfully replaces the act of physical exchange, I'd be interested to hear more. Take care until we see you at the next event in 2011!