Joe Kukura

The ad:tech digital marketing conference had not even started yet but the ad:tech party scene was already in full swing Monday night. At San Francisco’s impressively swanky nightclub Roe, business cards were already passing hands, big bucks networking was already underway and complimentary cocktails were already disappearing down thirsty professionals’ throats. Marketing industry movers and shakers don’t screw around and they don’t wait for the conference to start to throw the conference’s hottest party.

Those of us lucky enough to finagle our way past security and make it into the unofficial ad:tech kick-off party were not disappointed. Nor were we particularly sober or lacking in any way for fabulous plates of hors d’oeuvres.

Monday’s unofficial ad:tech kick-off party was hosted by brand advertising protectors AdSafe, data targeting gurus Ligit, digital marketing management experts DataXu and prospect targeting engine media6degrees. These companies’ intertwined relationships all make total business sense according to something called a Kawaja Chart but try explaining that concept to me when I’m on my eighth gin and tonic.

“The beauty of the Internet is that it’s given the ability to everyone to have a platform,” Lijit CEO Todd Vernon told Allvoices. “The beauty of publishing is that it gets you a very specific audience and you can tell them exactly what you want to tell them. But you have to create a business. You want to understand your audience and you want to monetize it. This party is all about celebrating how awesome publishing is.”

The party itself was fairly awesome as well. While DJ Atom Bomb capably manned the decks, party attendees were treated to several huge HDTV screens of NCAA Tournament championship action – with an Apple TV up for grabs – and a generous open bar arrangement until late in the evening.

To previous attendees of the ad:tech conference, this is nothing new. For first-time attendees, it was a crash course in how to survive and capitalize at an exceptionally extravagant trade show party. Here are some skills to take into Tuesday night’s upcoming gauntlet of ad:tech parties:

Carry business cards and learn to manage the business cards handed to you – You will get handed roughly two dozen business cards per hour and those babies accumulate like mad in your pocket. Stick the important ones in a special pocket, and stick the ones you took just to be diplomatic into a separate pocket. You do not want to lose an important business card in a pile of riffraff.

Carry breath mints – Breath mints are particularly important at a trade show, especially if you are a coffee achiever or a chainsmoker like me.

Talk to everyone, constantly – Most of these people are from out of town, away from all their friends and family and deep down they’re feeling even more insecure than you. There is no topic too stupid over which to begin a conversation. You have significant professional overlap with whomever is standing next to you, you just haven’t realized it yet. Who knows, that person might even hire you someday.

Eat whenever you see food – It’s unbelievably difficult for caterers to meter their food out equally over the course of an hours-long party. The good stuff all gets eaten early, people, that’s just how it is. If you see some good snacks, grab a nosh the moment you see them. You have no guarantees that another plate is coming.

Keep your smartphone close and your LinkedIn bookmark closer – It’s insanely handy and helpful to whip out a working web browser when networking face-to-face. What’s even more handy is LinkedIn access. You and several other partygoers will at some point need to look for a person whose name you know but whose face you don’t. LinkedIn can show you what that person’s face looks like and that face will light up when you approach them to ask, “Hey, aren’t you (insert so-and-so’s name here)?”

By my count, there are no fewer than 12 out-of-control open bar ad:tech parties Tuesday night. All of them will be crawling with high-value networking targets. Be prepared and you’ll navigate these situations flawlessly – even when you’re on your eighth gin and tonic.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech San Francisco event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.