How to network at conferences?

On 20171023, Honey Panda and I went to the first conference attended by Little Princess. I know that some people may be thrilled to see her, whereas some may perceive it negatively or even worse, be offended, but I think that exposing her to her parents’ work early is essential [1], so that she views her work as a passion, not a toil. After all, before she turned three months old, she succeeded in collecting five-digit debts for her mother.

Gaining an inspiration from Lisa DeLuca of IBM, I braced myself carrying Little Princess in a brown baby carrier that we bought for Little Prince.

I am thankful to a London-based gentleman who was originally from Iraq for complementing Little Princess, while I quickly grabbed our breakfast.

I tried to listen to the talks, but the darkness of the hall might make her uncomfortable. After all, I met 4 of my 5 goals (see my google calendar) and got to know few new people.

To optimize our conference experience:

  1. Give 1st
    1. Give a smile or a nod (if we are concerned of being interpreted wrongly, especially for distinct genders) or a light bow.
    2. “Would you be happy if we introduce you to new audiences (in print/online)? (i.e. offer an interview article).
    3. Don’t start with taking from others, if possible. If one says “pick your brain” it can be interpreted as free consulting services.
    4. bring business cards. During an exchange, give ours beneath the others.
  2. Identify n people we would most like to connect.
    1. There are 7.442 billions people in the world as of 2016 (World Bank). It’s impossible to get to know everyone even if we use each day to get to know a new person, hence I cherish the random and serendipitously planned opportunities to connect with people, especially those who are wiser/older as well as those who are younger/hungrier than me.
    2. n can vary, but I prefer to keep n small (less is more) to facilitate deep conversation instead of merely small talk. HBR recommends n ~= 5.
    3. use the list of speakers/registrants to identify these people (i.e. do our homework!).
    4. Focus on the opportunity that stands before us if we feel intimidated by experts/big names.
      1. I’m thankful that I garnered my courage to talk to an expert speaker, that effort landed me a productive summer work in 2009!
  3. Make a positive impression.
    1. If necessary, prepare a succint (let say 30 seconds) self-introduction. “My name is …, I work for …, my background is in …”
    2. listen reflectively.
    3. ask meaningful questions.
  4. Follow-up!

Other useful tips:

  • request for wifi password if any
  • Avoid badmouthing anything (people, organization, country), no matter how useful this might seem. Even if the person you’re networking does so, refrain from joining in.

***

[1] Little Prince started attending a professional conference when he was 4 years old, Little Princess started attending one when she was 1 years old.

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