This past week I went to my first professional conference for SEAHO! I was extremely excited to meet new people within my region and hopefully begin to get involved within the conference. I realized I knew no one at this conference and I began to reflect on my professional conference experience (shoutout to my UMR-ACUHO peeps!). Here are a few tips for networking to make the most of your conference experience.
Go to all the things
Conferences are all about networking, meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, and learning more about your field. You can’t do any of those if you don’t go to the things. My first conference two years ago was overwhelming! I had no idea what to do and felt so awkward. But, I got a chance to meet so many people.
Go to sessions that interest you and can help you develop
Normally at conferences, I get so lost at what sessions to attend because there might be one time frame where I am not interested in any of the sessions, so I randomly attend the one my friends are going to. I realized that when doing that, I don’t benefit from that session. Luckily, at SEAHO this year, there were so many amazing program sessions and I was torn between which to go to! When thinking about which sessions I might want to attend, I looked at what could help my current professional position, but also looked at things that could be beneficial for my department or my RA staff.
Put yourself out there
Sometimes I struggle with putting myself out there and trying to make friends at a conference! But, I have learned that you can network with anyone anywhere! In the hotel elevator, hotel lobby, the restaurant across the street from the conference, or even the airport. It’s extremely easy to strike up a quick conversation with someone and find out their name and what institution they’re from.
Getting involved at conferences is the easy part. Putting yourself out there and signing up for something is probably the hardest part. Whether you are volunteering at the conference, presenting, serving as a program moderator, or even signing up for a mentor/mentee relationship, it provides a different conference experience! Getting involved in the conference allows you to network and meet so many more people than you might if you just attend the programming sessions.
This is the most important! We all know that technically at the conference we are working, but fun is a part of it as well. Usually during the evening there are a variety of socials for you to network with others. It’s totally okay to have some fun. After all, it helps create a positive experience for you! I live by the motto “work hard, play hard”. It definitely helps when I get to have some fun!
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Aracelis, Emalie, Felicia, and Patrick, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.