Tips for Post-Conference Networking: Ask a Special Librarian

Ask a Special Librarian – July Edition

What to Do With That Stack of Business Cards: Tips for Post-Conference Networking

Tracy Z. Maleeff
Library Resources Manager at Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia
@LibrarySherpa &

Joshua LaPorte
Law Library Assistant – University of Connecticut
@joshualaporte &
TracyJosh2In this installment of “Ask a Special Librarian,” Joshua LaPorte, Law Library Assistant from the University of Connecticut Law Library, explains how  you convert all those connections you just made at a conference into lasting professional relationships.

Conferences are a wonderful opportunity to network, to learn about new ideas, and to develop the spark that can get you thinking creatively about new services or procedures to implement at your library.  They are also a lot of fun!

Unfortunately, we often return to overflowing inboxes, festering assignments, and work piled up on our desks.  It is so easy to quickly fall back into the regular daily grind. A few weeks later the conference is a distant memory and you have a pile of business cards from people you can’t remember the faces of.

Before you follow the advice of A Librarian’s Guide to Etiquette, there are several simple things you can do post-conference which will help you remember those ideas, develop relationships with those contacts, and retain that new energy you gleaned at the conference.

  • While you are at the conference, take a few minutes each night when the day is finished to go through any business cards you’ve accumulated that day.  Take a few notes on the back of the card to help you remember who that person was.  If you can’t remember the person who gave you the card, look over your schedule for the day to try to find contextual cues.  If desperate, do a Google search to see if you can find a photo of the person.  If you remember,  jot down what you spoke about and anything you promised to follow-up with them about.
  • When you return from the conference, before you dig into queued-up work and start clearing out your inbox, take some time to go through the conference program and think back to each program you attended.  Write down the name of the program and a few things you remember from it.  If there were ideas presented which you want to take back to your own library, get them into your task/project management system now.
  • If you know someone who presented, or if you were  really impressed with a presenter who you have not met, take a moment to send them an email with your feedback.  If you had an idea or a question, reach out with it.  Believe me, the presenter will appreciate your positive feedback.  
  • Over the weeks following the conference, dig into the business cards you received and send brief emails to everyone you met.  Follow-up on questions or conversations, compliment people on their poster-sessions, and just let people know you remember them and were happy to meet them.  On her Library Sherpa blog, Tracy Z. Maleeff says you need to cultivate your network like a garden; think of the first meeting as the seed, and this is the water you add to help it germinate.
  • If you learned about something particularly useful or salient, invite your colleagues or classmates to a brown-bag lunch to share it and talk about how you can implement it at your own library. This reinforces the professional relationships you need to maintain within your own work environment. Collaboration and sharing of information builds rapport and can solidify working relationships.

Spending some quality post-conference time going over your notes, following up with contacts and reviewing your recent conference experience is a great way to add value to the foundation on which your future professional development is based. Take your lessons learned and those people you met and use that as a springboard towards your next professional and personal goals!