Jason Eiseman has compiled a great list of tips for networking at conferences. Although his list specifically mentions the CALI and AALL conferences, his suggestions certainly apply much more broadly.
Here’s the basic list – see Jason’s full post for annotations.
1. Be yourself
2. You have something very important to say
3. Have an elevator pitch
4. You are not a “dream maker.”
5. You’re probably not that funny
6. Don’t pretend you remember me
7. Don’t be offended but I may walk away from you
8. Don’t do me any favors
9. You don’t have to exchange business cards with everyone: use social networking too
10. If you see me, say hello.
This is an awesome list – both funny and wise. I particularly like #2: “You have something very important to say.” But I think it goes well beyond conferences–it’s true of your professional life as a whole.
This has been a particularly personal lesson for me. As a young person, I was extremely shy and had fairly low self esteem – the kind of student that never, ever spoke up in class because I felt that I had nothing important to offer.
Fortunately, I got over it. It took some serious encouragement from a wonderful mentor who coached me through writing and eventually publishing my senior thesis. For me, it was that experience of having a published article that made me realize that I actually did have something valuable to say.
I’ve written a lot since then and presented many times, but it still sometimes amazes me that people think I’ve got something worthwhile to offer. I continue to struggle with my shyness but that little voice in my head that says “yes, I do have something important to say” keeps me talking.