I registered for the three-day Forbes Under 30 Summit confident it would deliver on one-of-a-kind conversations, collaborations, and opportunities for young minds (including their Forbes 30 Under 30 Listmakers and 2019 hopefuls). With 24 career tracks to choose from, hundreds of high-achieving speakers, and dozens of VC pitch sessions, there was no doubt we would all walk away enriched. I showed up Monday morning in Boston, with my All-Access pass and coffee in hand, ready to absorb as much knowledge as possible from industry leaders.

Forbes Under 30 All-Access Pass

And while the talks were provoking (thank you, Sara Blakely, for reminding us the power of intention, and Jenny Han for being emphatic we protect the integrity of our creations), the surprise of the event was what I learned from spending time with my fellow attendees. Turns out, when you surround yourself with 7,000 ambitious, intelligent, and driven young people, elevated conversations happen. 

Throughout the Summit, I began collecting interesting bits of knowledge by observing and interacting with my fellow attendees. Here were my 5 unexpected takeaways from attending the Forbes Under 30 Summit:

1. Don’t forget to breathe. I was heavily engaged in a conversation with a Listmaker nominee when his phone alarm went off. It was 2:09 PM. He apologized, but then explained he had alarms set for nine minutes after the hour, every hour throughout the day. “What’s it for?” I asked.

“To remind myself to breathe,” he replied.

We collectively did a deep inhale and exhale together, followed by laughter of the absurdity and immediate benefit of the act. As entrepreneurs, we often get stuck in our thoughts or running full-speed. His alarm was a gentle reminder that there are simple ways to stay present.

2. Always have a goal behind your actions. Each time I met a Forbes 30 Under 30 Listmaker or hopeful, they asked me my intention behind choosing to attend the Summit. I hadn’t prepared for the question and felt foolish that I had to think about it.

Obviously, I knew that I was attending for growth, the network, and the knowledge that Forbes’ provided. But the attendees that were clear on exactly what they wanted to get out of the week were more focused and appeared more fulfilled with their results at the end of the event.

It was a great reminder that while having no expectations can ensure a positive experience, having clear goals ensures you spend your time and energies wisely.

3. Have a clear one-liner calling card. It was common for attendees to start conversations by asking which career track they were on, but this wasn’t helpful in facilitating conversation. It would often take minutes before I could identify an attendee’s passion, career path, or startup’s mission. The attendees who could succinctly communicate what they did— and in a manner that I could easily understand— were the ones who were easiest to talk to, regardless of field of interest. That ease of conversation led to more productive dialogue and stronger connections.

Hilary Billings at the Forbes Under 30 Summit

4. Always be cognizant of who may be listening. During lunch, I overheard two co-founders lamenting their experience approaching a VC earlier in that day. After thirty minutes of complaining and determining it was the VC’s problem and not that of their presentation, they left. The couple next to them then started discussing the co-founders’ conversation. Turns out one of them was also a VC, and while he was intrigued by their company, he was disenchanted by their behavior.

It was a great reminder that you never know where your next opportunity may come from, or who may be eavesdropping. Present your best self and dialogue, always.

5. Look to add value to every conversation. With an event hosting over 7,000 attendees, Listmakers, speakers, VC’s, and Forbes executives, you’re bound to run into numerous people who can help you further your career and mission. And when it comes to networking, many people carry the concept that they should ‘get’ something immediately from the conversations they have.

There were many founders and entrepreneurs who immediately lost interest in talking to me when they learned I couldn’t help them obtain their goal. But others, in the same field, immediately recognized that forming relationships with people of similar core values was more valuable than our Summit objectives.

You never know what someone’s going to be working on in twenty years, but you can formulate the tribe now, so you can achieve your ambitions together. Already, this mentality has paid off in establishing strong foundations and alliances with people determined to make it. And if they’re attending an event as prestigious as the Forbes Under 30 Summit, you can bet they’re all in. 


  • Hilary Billings

    Keynote Speaker. On-Camera Host. Confidence Curator.

    Red Carpet Confidence

    Hilary Billings is a keynote speaker, on-camera host, and online influencer. As a former Miss Nevada, producer for E! News and travel host for Norwegian Cruise Line, Hilary has been a featured contributor for USA Today, Thrive Global and Huffington Post as well as being featured on Extra! Entertainment TV. As a burn survivor with humorous monologue viral videos and an online audience of millions, Hilary is focused on everything but the superficial. She is a sought-after speaker and coach that helps people overcome inadequacy through finding, interpreting and affirming their self-worth. For more on Hilary, visit: www.HilaryBillings.com.