As suggested in the last post, graduate students seeking networking tips should read Nana Lee's UA article Essential networking tips for graduate students. In her article, Lee suggests:
- Doing some pre-conference homework on the work of researchers who might attend the reception/conference
- Preparing a few questions to ask researchers which is also relevant to your own work
- Be presentable to appear more open and accessible (introduce yourself with a firm handshake, a smile, and a business card)
- Request an informational interview (through 2nd and 3rd connections) to land a mentor
- Follow up with contacts in a timely manner (following the reception or conference)
- Keep in touch with meaningful connections because you never know when you might need them!
Lee's list is a great start, and we're going to borrow more tips from Diane Darling who wrote The Networking Survival Guide to fill out the list.
Like Lee, Darling advocates for all of the above in addition to the following:
- Travel light - Darling advocates to travel light during the reception so that you can concentrate on your conversations and appear professional without fumbling for items like your business card. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: We've been to many conferences and remember having to schlep around winter coats, heavy laptop bags, and branded conference bags with the conference schedule. This weighted look affects graduate students the most - we believe - because as graduate students, we couldn't afford to stay in the same hotel as the conference. If possible, keep expensive/irreplaceable items on you and leave your other items to the side of the room. Better yet, ask your supervisor or adviser to stash your items in their room (if they're attending and have a room in the same hotel). Or, are the conference organizers listening?!? We need a free coat/bag check for all conference reception events!
- Walk the walk - Smile and carry yourself confidently. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Don that confidence as best you can. For strategies on how to re-frame yourself as a junior scholar instead of grad student - check out Karen Kelsky's The Professor is In blog.
- Check out the food table for more than just food - People tend to be more open around the food table. Hungry or not, make the food table a stop in your travels around the room.
- Who's who - Darling wants us to scan the whole room (do a walk-about) for those we want to speak with but avoid reading name tags while speaking to anyone. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: AAA name tags seem to follow this pattern as of late, making conference goer's first names bigger than their last. Having done your homework before hand to know who's who (advocated by both Lee and Darling), you'll already know who you'd like to connect with.
- Approach the VIPs before talks - Darling advocates that we talk to VIPs before their big event as they tend to be swamped after. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Great idea. If you've done your homework, you'll be able to ask them pointed questions and avoid general dead-ended questions such as, so what's your talk going to be about?
- Spot the lone wolves - Darling points out that the best networking and introductions come from one-on-one conversations. If you find a 'lone wolf' standing by themselves, approach them smiling and be ready with a handshake. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Caveat: while business events are supposed to be professional, it's important to be mindful of one's personal safety. If you're reticent to approach new individuals on your own, find a colleague or new conference goer who you can tag-team the 'working the room' with.
- "And you are?" - Darling advocates that we ask others what their connection to the conference is first. This way, you can identify with their interests and lives in your response. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Sounds like we should treat the reception room like an anthropological field site. Ask questions first, and connect through personal experience.
Quick links and further reading:
From anthro everywhere!'s #conference series:
- Conferencing: Contributing to the Conversation
- Writing better Conference Abstracts and crafting better Posters
- Tips for Moderators
- How to be a great Chair.
- How to work a room, Diane Darling, MBA Jungle Magazine, (2002) xplane.com
- Essential networking tips for graduate students (University Affairs, 2016)