Networking at education conferences can be a very valuable tool for creating connections and opening doors which could be potentially useful to you and your career. There are plenty of education conferences which are held all over the world, giving you ample opportunity to mix with people from your industry and to get your face known to your peers.
Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your networking opportunities at education conferences.
Make sure you have business cards with you
Business cards may not always be necessary, but it’s better to have them than to not. Having a business card makes it easy to leave your contact details with someone who may be of interest to you, and exchanging details in this personal way sets up an expectation for a future conversation which eliminates the risk of them forgetting who you are when your name appears in their inbox.
Arrive early and scope out the area
Getting to the area where the conference is held early puts you in a powerful position, as you’ll be able to find the best way to get there to make sure logistics aren’t a worry on the day. You won’t need to waste time worrying about getting lost, allowing you to focus your attention on the conference ahead. Being able to name some good places for food and drink after the event will also make you the local expert amongst other attendees, helping you to form further connections.
Plan your schedule beforehand
Organisation is key when it comes to attending educational conferences. Make sure you look at the schedule and line-up before the day to plan which talks and seminars you want to go to. Picking talks in your field gives you additional networking opportunities, as people you will want to meet will likely be in the same room.
Don’t be afraid to go with the flow
If you find something interesting at the conference but it clashes with a talk you already had planned, don’t be afraid to veer away from your original plan if your new discovery could be more beneficial to you. Make sure you don’t have blinkers on to your schedule so you can spot any unexpected chances to network throughout the day.
Know what you can offer
What are your main reasons for networking? Being able to form strong relationships with other people at education conferences means knowing what your skills are and what you can offer to another person. Have a plan for what kind of opportunities you’d like to be opened to you off the back of this networking event, so you can build stronger relationships with context behind them.
Target who you want to talk to
Do your research beforehand on who will be attending the conference. Check the list of speakers to see if anyone on the list could be good for you to talk to, and reach out to other people in your field on social media to see if they will be there. Dropping a line to someone you’d like to speak to beforehand will give your conversation more value on the day, as they will be expecting you.
Network with people you don’t know
The best way to make yourself known amongst peers you’ll be sharing the industry with for the duration of your career, is to approach people you haven’t met before. Networking with new people is a good way to spread your name and specialties, and to establish yourself with people who may have an offer for you in future.
Don’t take it too seriously
Conferences are generally a social meet-up for people in the same industry, and there will be a lot of people there who use it as an opportunity to catch up with connections they have already established. Don’t charge in with an agenda on every conversation you have, be relaxed, ask interesting questions, and remember that everyone there is a human being as well as a professional!
Don’t be afraid to help people
If you’re talking to someone who is in a different field to you, don’t immediately dismiss them as not being useful to you. Making connections with people who you may not be able to work with is still beneficial, as you may be able to help each other with other introductions. If you know someone who they may like an introduction to, set it up for them as they may do the same for you in future.
Go to the conference dinner and other social events
The networking doesn’t end when the conference does. Go to the conference dinner and any social events that are put on for attendees as you may meet more interesting people there. The crowds will be more relaxed in these settings, so use it as an opportunity to make friends with people in your industry. If there’s a free bar, don’t get too carried away as you’ll be remembered for the wrong reasons!
Follow-up with your new connections after the event
If you took the business card of anyone who may be a good contact to have, make sure you drop them an email in the days after the event. Even if you can’t help each other right now, following up means your contact details are mutually stored and helps to build a relationship that goes further than the conference.
Do you have any other networking tips to add? Have you used any of these in the past and found them useful? Let us know!