Networking can be challenging, no matter how many conferences you attend. Jo Lakey, Research Manager at Brunel University London and Sue Starbuck, Research Manager at the University of Surrey share their top tips to make the most out of the 2016 ARMA Conference.
- If you’ve come to conference with people you work with, try not to spend the whole time with them. It may feel more comfortable staying with people who are familiar, but you won’t meet as many new people, and that would be a shame!
- Starting conversations is easy at conference – ask people what they thought of the plenary, what session did they just do, did they enjoy the awards dinner? If all else fails, start a discussion about the food – people always have an opinion on the whether the biscuits were better at last year’s conference!
- Take business cards and exchange them with people. Make a quick note on the back to remind you whose card it is (the session you did together, or the interesting area they work in) – it’ll help you remember who you talked to during the two days.
- Do a variety of sessions. Try to cover topics that you’re not familiar with, or would like to know more about – it’ll help your professional development and will allow you to meet a wider range of people.
- Contact people afterwards. If you really enjoyed a presenter’s session, email and let them know (they’ll be delighted!)
- Think about how to use those new contacts to develop your network. Could you arrange reciprocal visits with people working in similar roles to share best practice? Could you invite a presenter to do a similar session at your institution?
- Don’t be afraid to come to the conference on your own – it is a great way to meet new people
- If you come with colleagues do your own thing – at least some of the time otherwise you won’t do any effective networking.
- If possible, come to the whole conference including the first night which provides a great opportunity to network. Networking is particularly difficult if you only attend on the final day (as I know from experience).
- Choose sessions that are interactive – particularly workshop sessions where you will get the chance to work with colleagues around the table.
- Even if sessions are not interactive it is easier to network with people who have attended a session with you, as you have an easy starting point for a conversation and a mutual interest in the session topic.
- Look in advance at the list of speakers and attendees and think about who you would like make contact with
- Networking involves “give and take”. Think about how your work and interests links with theirs and why they might want to meet you: what could you do for them?
- When you meet someone, listen to them properly and be careful that you don’t give the impression that you are just waiting to move on to someone more interesting.
- Networking is a long term activity – the conference is only the start. Make sure you have your business cards with you so that you can keep in contact with the people you meet.