Networking at Conferences – Got Any Tips?

I’m running a workshop next week on the topic of networking, including networking at academic conferences. I’ve read articles, talked to academics, got video clips – but there’s nothing like asking people in your network (that’s you, dear readers…) for their experience.

So, got any tips for managing the networking encounter at an academic conference?

Could be how to approach the eminent professor in your field, how to walk into a room full of people you don’t know, what to say to people standing next to their posters – or how to engage people slowly drifting past your poster. Anything welcome – just add a comment here or tweet me at @ManPGCareers.

Advice for networking at academic conferences
If you’ve been drawn here because you want some help with networking at conferences, then have a look at some good advice from Vitae, plus an extra tip from Emma Gillaspy, NW Hub Manager at Vitae:

  • Asking a question or making a comment to someone at their formal session earlier in the day makes it much easier to approach them informally at the more social networking sessions later.

… and have a look at the comments below for some more great tips from people who’ve been there, done that, and are happy to help. Just shows the power of networking.


6 comments on “Networking at Conferences – Got Any Tips?

  1. Hi Elizabeth

    Every conference publishes (or should publish) a list of delegates – if there’s someone on there who you would like to meet but feel nervous approaching drop them an email first to introduce yourself and then suggest meeting up more formally during the conference for a quick chat. This takes the initial sting out of approaching someone. It’s always good to ‘Google’ some of the names on the list to see if you have any common research interests.


  2. I have always found networking at conferences hard. But I would suggest that, while it’s important to speak to the eminent speakers, you should a) have something really concrete to talk to them about (don’t just start trying to make general chitchat) and b) don’t forget everybody else! Although it’s great to talk to the eminent people in your field, EVERYONE will be wanting to talk to them so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get a look in. Most of the real opportunities that have arisen from going to conferences have been, in my own experience, a result of talking to ‘rising stars’ and fellow graduate students/early career people. Once you have been to a a few conferences, you will find that you start to recognise people – even make friends – and then approaching people becomes much less daunting.

    For the more eminent people, I have found that being introduced to them by others really helps. So if there is somebody else you know at the conference who has some sort of connection with them, ask them if they will introduce you. Or send them an e-mail beforehand about something specific, as Emily said, to give you something to open with.

  3. I volunteered as an assistant at a scientific meeting. Working on the registration desk was a brilliant way of putting names to faces, and I was able to go and chat to them later. I knew that free admission was a major perk of volunteering, the networking possibilities hadn’t occurred to me.

  4. Thanks ever so much, Catherine and Debbie. Great suggestions from both of you about breaking the ice – then it gets much easier.


  5. I do agree with all the above mentioned! At my last conference as a Ph.D. student, I read through the list of delegates and research they were doing and found a group doing research very similar to mine. I found them and just started to talk about what they were doing, asking questions, discussing the similarities and differences to my research etc. It was very relaxing, just like a chat. Later that day they came to my poster and we continued talking about research. To cut a long story short, after that, they told me that they are about to advertise a postdoc position in their lab and asked if I’d be interested in applying! Great, isn’t it? I went through the informal part of the interview and I got a formal interview all before the job was even advertised! All of this just because I was enthusiastic about research I was doing and I did not have problem to talk to anyone about it. Good luck to you all!

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