A few years ago, my business partners at the time and I went to a local conference. I’m not sure what it was about this conference, but it didn’t seem like we were getting any opportunities to network with people. Sometimes it’s just one of those days. You either already know people you talk to, or people aren’t friendly (I don’t know why unfriendly people go to networking events), or maybe they just didn’t set things up right for people to meet.
Faced with the choice of sticking it out or packing it in, we decided to take an alternative approach.
My one partner happened to have a bunch of gear in his car, including a wireless internet box (one of the high speed cellular ones) and a wifi access point. So we whipped together a free hotspot, and wrote out a sign with a marker to let people know they could connect to the internet from us. Pretty soon we had a small crowd around the table we were occupying, and we got to chat with people after all.
Moral of the story: if the conference sucks, its up to you to make it better.