Top 10 Tips for Reluctant Networkers

Mary-Michelle Moore, Head Editor, INALJ California

Top 10 Tips for Reluctant Networkers

MaryMichelleMooreIt’s nearly summer, which means.. Conference season! In addition to the chance to go to presentations and sightsee this is one of the best ways to network with your fellow librarians. Below are ten great tips for networking with colleagues at in-person events.

1. Know yourself: I am a sociable introvert. That means I love meeting people and I love talking to them, but I’m exhausted after a night of being with a lot of people. If you need to take an hour to yourself in the afternoon before heading out for the evening, plan it into your schedule.

2. Have at least 3 stories in your pocket: A good rule of thumb is to have a few lines about who you are (where you work, what classes you’re taking, what project you’re working on, etc.), a few lines about what you want to do (looking for a job, ideas for upcoming projects), and a few lines about a hobby or passion you have. Having these ready to go means you’re prepared to start a conversation with anyone in the room.

3. Glance over the schedule for the day: Not everyone will have been at the same talks you were, especially at bigger conferences. Take a look at the schedule for the day, are there any sessions you wanted to see but missed? If you find someone who went to one of those sessions mention that you wanted to go to that talk and offer to swap notes. This also gives you a chance to jog your memory about highlights of sessions you saw earlier so you can share what you’ve learned.

4. Duck into the bathroom and straighten up: If you’ve been walking around all day, or if you just need another minute to prepare before jumping into the crowd, find a bathroom and take a few deep breaths. While you’re there you can check the mirror to make sure that you don’t have any broccoli between your teeth or just reassure yourself that you’re name badge is in place and you look wonderful.

5. Smile: It will help you feel more confident, make you seem friendlier, and if you’re shy, it will trick your brain into thinking there’s nothing to be nervous about until you can relax and stop being nervous. (Bonus tip: the physiological manifestations of being nervous are basically the same as those for when you’re excited. Just keep telling yourself, you’re not nervous, you’re excited, it may take a few minutes but it works.)

6. Have a line: It doesn’t need to be polished, but be ready to be initiate conversation. I’ve approached someone and said “Hi, you look about as nervous as I feel” and we laughed and hit it off after that. Try asking what sessions the other person just came from or what traffic was like on the way over.

7. Let the other person talk: Networking only works if you’re interacting with other people. Ask questions and listen to the other person for a bit. This one seems too easy to be on the list, but if you ramble when you’re nervous, it’s a good one to remember.

8. If you recognize someone invite them to join you: There is no rule saying that a conversation can only take place between two people. If you see someone you spoke with earlier in the day or you know from work, but you don’t want to leave your current conversational buddy, wave them over to join you. Just be ready to do a quick introduction to get the ball rolling.

9. Keep business cards handy: When you’re ready to leave either the event or to try to find more people to chat with, exchange business cards. If you don’t have cards from work you can order or print your own relatively inexpensively. This will give you a way to stay in touch with people you’ve met and will make it easier to connect with them in the future.

10. Don’t forget social media: Twitter is usually the big one at conferences, but if you prefer to connect on Facebook or LinkedIn ask how your new acquaintance likes to connect with other people. Even though you can look people up on your own later, be aware of the fact that some people use certain social media outlets for different aspects of their lives. For example, I maintain a Twitter profile for public/work connections but prefer to keep my Facebook interactions more social. Asking at these types of in person events means you can find out more ways to stay in touch long after the evening is over.

What did I miss? What are your tried and true tips for networking at conferences? Share in the comments!

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