Networking Advice: How to Survive Your First Work Conference
At some point in your career, you will attend a conference. Some of you may be excited because it means time away from work! But for others, it means socializing, networking, and meeting people you don’t know, which can be nerve-wracking and intimidating. (Not to mention the energy required to spend all day and night with your co-workers!)
Sarah Beckman just returned from a conference for her job at Affordable Style and made some notes for us on how to survive your first big conference. When Sarah is not jet-setting for work, she blogs about celebrity style. Enjoy!
Things are going great at work: You’re gaining responsibility, your opinion is valued, and everyone is impressed with your skills. Sounds like it’s time to be sent on your first conference!
As a 20-something woman, attending your first conference can be intimidating (especially if you’re going alone). But, if you tackle it right, you’ll walk away with great contacts — and your boss will be impressed!
[Related Post: How To Network Boldly as an Introvert]
Tips on how to survive & make a great impression at your first work conference:
Make Contacts Before the Conference
Use social media to make friends before the conference even starts. Find out if the event has a Facebook page, or if there is a special Twitter hash tag people are using to Tweet about it. Be a social butterfly and ask who’s going. Chances are, you’ll get responses from people just like yourself who want to meet new contacts. You could even schedule a dinner/drink meet-up for the evening before the conference starts. You’ll have an instant group of familiar and friendly faces at the conference!
Don’t be Afraid to Talk to People
It’s likely at least one meal will be served each day at the conference. Use these opportunities to sit with new people. It might feel like a cafeteria on the first day of school, but remember most others are in the same boat as you and want to meet new people.
Attend All After Parties & Networking Events
After hours events are where most relationships are built at conferences. Plus, it’s where you can rub elbows with the speakers and your industry’s leaders. Don’t be afraid to approach these significant people and hand out those business cards! If you feel intimidated going to an event alone, find another female your age who’s also at the conference solo: Power in numbers!
Pay Attention to the Speakers!
This should go without saying, but your boss won’t be happy if you come back from your first work conference with no takeaways (even if you built lots of great relationships)! Take good notes during every session — even if the lecture doesn’t apply to you, someone in your company might benefit from your notes. Soon after you get back from the conference, organize your notes. Be proactive and ask your boss for some of their time so you can informally present what you learned. Try your hardest to implement and push through several takeaways. This will show your boss the asset you are — and increase your chances of attending more conferences in the future!
Readers – What are your tips for attending your first work conference?