This choice piece of wisdom was passed on to me about day two in the massive conference, but the statement is absolutely valid and not just for South by Southwest, for almost all conferences.
All conferences have name tags. This makes it easy to see who you are talking to, just like a Twitter handle. Remember the person’s name and use it in conversation, it will help you remember who they are.
You’re going to meet people, so be friendly. Be quickly able to say who you are, who you work for and why you are at the conference. Shake hands. Smile. Share your business cards, collect other’s business cards. Write on the back where you met the person (example: dinner at name the restaurant). If you got swag, write that down too.
Don’t be afraid to join a conversation, but use social cues. If you jump in with a witty comment and and get funny looks, jump out. If no one responds to your comment, politely leave. Unlike on Twitter, you will feel dumb. That’s ok. The conversation just wasn’t for you. Other ones will be! The flip side is to be nice to people who hop into your conversations. Don’t give them nasty looks.
If you can handle Twitter and have an ability to read social cues, you’ll be fine handling real life Twitter.
(The social cues post, however, is another post.)