With conference season in full swing, it’s important to figure out how you can make the most of the networking opportunities at the conferences you will be attending. Conferences often provide multiple networking opportunities, ranging from informal meet-and-greets to formal cocktail mixers.
Networking often seems more like work than play, so, I met with Networking Ninja Brittany Manzer, a counselor at Career Services, to learn the ins-and-outs of networking at conferences. Here are some tips to help you build your network at your next conference:
General Networking Tips
- Be comfortable with silence.
- Start small (e.g., introduce yourself to one or two individuals).
- Know that everyone else is in the same boat (networking is difficult for everyone).
- Be authentic, natural, and confident when speaking about yourself and your research.
- Say names multiple times to commit them to memory.
Before the Conference
- Research who will be attending and presenting.
- Make a networking “wish list” of the people who you would like to speak with. Try to connect with these individuals via email or social media before the conference and ask them to meet for coffee/tea or a meal during the conference.
- Use social media (e.g., LinkedIn Group or Facebook Page) to start building connections with conference attendees/presenters.
- Build your digital reputation (e.g., create an ePortfolio or well-designed LinkedIn profile page) so you can show it off while networking.
At the Conference
- Attend poster sessions and strike up a conversation with the presenters.
- Workshop, panel, and paper presenters are often swarmed after their presentations. Get the presenters’ contact information and follow up with them later for more in-depth conversations.
- Collect business cards and write one memorable thing about each individual on the back of the person’s business card (this will help you during the follow-up stage).
- Ask the people you talk with to connect via LinkedIn.
- Attend as many networking events as you can.
After the Conference
- Follow up with the individuals you met at the conference. Use your notes on the back of the business cards when you connect (e.g., “Hi James, I met you at the XYZ Conference last week. How is your screenwriting project coming along. ... I have a question about ...”)
- Set a networking reminder in your calendar to follow up with individuals and nurture relationships.
- Keep in touch with the individuals in your network. For example, when you find an article that may be of interest to someone in your network, send a brief email to the individual with a link to the article. Or, if you meet someone who may benefit from connecting with another person in your network, be a connector and introduce the two individuals.
Additional Handouts and Resources