Monday, 22 April 2019

Having fun at conferences

Anyone who has ever been a newbie at a conference knows just how difficult it is to get out there and to start talking to people, particularly in a different country.

However, I have a few ideas to can help us get us past our own awkwardness (there is nothing like occupying the mind!):
  • Get to the conference venue early and do a full recce. Know where the toilets are; where the registration desk is; when lunch starts; what times the plenary sessions are; what the Wifi password is; and so on. Then when we hear people asking each other questions, we can lean in politely and say "I think it might be...". A little gift of information is an awesome ice-breaker, and can lead to a lot of conversation later. 
  • Look for people on the periphery of groups, and go and talk to them. Ask them where they have come from and how long they have been interested in the sector. Ask lots of questions, and listen to people's story. Do this at every single break.
  • Then start introducing the people we have already talked with to the next people whom we have spoken to. Think of it as build a web, linking everyone we have met together. 
  • Check in with the people we have already talked to whenever we see them. Ask what sessions they have been to, and what was good.
  • Definitely go to the conference dinner. The networking preparation you have already done will probably get you seated in a group with someone whom you have already talked to.
  • If despite these things we get lonely, we can have a crack at playing the Conference Scavenger Hunt. This is where we grab the online checklist of  crazy things (here) to find at a conference and immerse ourselves in finding them.
  • Another good thing to do is to connect with people whom we know outside the conference, or to arrange to meet an old friend in this particular city (at least for a night). It will help ground us.
I would be really interested in hearing what anyone else does to create connections at conferences!


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