Conferences are excellent venues for building our professional networks. In their book Networking Counts, authors Anne Baber and Lynn Waymon suggest planning your conference networking strategy ahead of time through setting an Agenda. Your Agenda will ensure that the conference meets your goals, as it lists your “To Gives” and your “To Gets.”
Your “To Gives” list notes information you have to share with others. Baber and Waymon suggest new resources you’ve found, knowledge you’ve developed, problems you’ve solved and successes you’ve had.
Your “To Get” list contains what you would like to acquire at the conference, such as new contacts, answers to current challenges, solutions to problems you’re dealing with, and resources you need to succeed. You might wish to ask colleagues at your workplace whether they would like you to obtain any information on their behalf.
Arrive at the conference early. Go through the list of attendees to see whom you’d like to meet and pick your conference sessions ahead of time. During the session Q and A, introduce yourself and your organization and ask good, thoughtful questions.
Talk to new contacts in the elevator, at meals and while waiting for sessions to start. Uncover ways to link new people to each other. Gather business cards and take notes to follow up with your new contacts later. When you return to work after the conference, report your newfound knowledge to your supervisor and colleagues. You’ll be branding yourself as someone who is serious about your professional development and who also looks for ways to add value to other colleagues’ professional development – a great reputation to have.