Summer is conference season for many in the library and educational fields, and there’s no better time to make new contacts and network than at a conference. Not all of us are natural networkers however, (myself included!), so I’ve gathered some tips and tricks for conference goers that you may find useful. What I’ve found most helpful personally is preparing before the event so that I have a plan and some groundwork already in place. And I can’t stress enough how handy social media is with regard to event networking so be sure to take advantage of social tools such as Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to make yourself more visible and also for interacting with others at the conference. And if you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments!
Before the Event
- Post Your Schedule – Most conferences these days will post the entire schedule of sessions well in advance. Some even have apps or websites with social networking components which will allow you to set up a profile with your photo and bio so that people can get to know you even before the conference begins. Posting a photo makes you easily recognizable come conference time! And those same websites oftentimes allow you to share your schedule from within the site. If there’s not a conference website outfitted with all of these features, you can still plan which sessions appeal to you and create a schedule which you can post yourself on Facebook, your blog, and other social media websites. Remember not to over-schedule yourself with sessions, much of the benefits of conferences come into play in between sessions, meeting and chatting with others in your field.
- Plan for Social Events – Every major conference and event will have a series of receptions, cocktail parties, and luncheons for attendees. These are just as important to be aware of as the sessions as you will have a chance to meet and network with colleagues and find out what new projects they’re working on or have implemented. Add these events to your schedule so that others will know where they can meet you.
- Grab a Badge – Many conferences will offer some sort of “I’m attending!” badge which you can post to your website and social media accounts letting others know you’ll be there.
- Take a Roll Call – Find out which of your Facebook or Twitter contacts will be attending the event by posting a status update such as – “Roll call! Who’s going to ALA Midwinter next week?”.
- Schedule Informal Meet-ups – Is there someone in the field that you’ve been waiting to meet in person but haven’t had the chance? Will there be influencers you’d like to talk to about a project you’ve developed at your library? Why not make contact before the event and find out if they’d like to go to coffee or meet at a session. Since you’ve posted your schedule, you can send them the link to see if they’ll be attending any of the same talks you’ll be going to, or any of the receptions you’ll be attending.
- Post to LinkedIn – You’ll find that most of your networking contacts will have their profiles on LinkedIn. Share that you’ll be attending the conference and see if anyone responds that they’d like to meet you!
- Pack your business cards – This is the simplest tip for networking, yet it’s the one that many people forget to do. Be sure and pack extra business cards in your suitcase early so that you aren’t left at the conference without them.
- Set a networking goal – One of my colleagues sets a goal for herself before every conference to collect a certain amount of business cards before the end of the event. This type of goal guarantees that you’ll talk with people and make connections.
During the Event
- Tweet the event – Twitter is a great tool for up-to-the-second news and updates. Why not tweet your impressions and key points of each session you attend to Twitter so that others who are both at the conference and at home can follow along? This will put your name in front of people and may start conversations both on the social network and in person.
- Use the event hashtag – Most conferences will have a unique hashtag signifying tweets just for that event. Learn what the hashtag is for your conference and add it to all of your tweets so that other attendees monitoring that tag will see your posts.
- Be a conference blogger – If you’ve attended sessions that have given you great takeaways and useful information and resources, a blog post is a great way to share that with those who didn’t’ attend that session. You can write blog posts about sessions once they’re over, or live, while you’re still attending them! This medium is a great way to summarize key learning points as well as share your thoughts about the experience, as well as make yourself known to other conference-goers.
- Be a conference photographer – Many people love to have their photo taken, especially at events and receptions. Taking photos chronicling the day’s events is a great way to start conversations and introduce yourself.
- Ask people about themselves – The best way to get to know someone is to ask them about what they do. As you’re attending sessions and event receptions, make it a goal to find out what at least 3 people do at each one. And be prepared to answer the same about yourself in a concise manner.
After the Event
- Follow up – Remember all of those business cards you collected at the conference? Now’s the time to follow up with each person, letting them know that it was nice to meet them and asking them to connect on social media sites such as LinkedIn, etc.
- Post presentations – Write a roundup of some of the great presentations you saw at the conference and link to the speaker’s slides on Slideshare.net or elsewhere. Most conferences provide a listing of all of the available presentations shortly after the conference. This is a great way to connect with the speakers, but also provide resources for those of your contacts who couldn’t make the event.
- Share photos on Flickr – It’s always great when you’ve been back in the office for a day or two and you see a link to all of the conference photos. Share your photos with everyone and post about it on a listserv, in a blog post, etc. Allowing people tag themselves in your pics is a great way to make connections as well.