This is a guest post by Kristine Macalalad, a member of the Local Arrangements Committee for Annual 2015 in San Francisco.
Why do we attend conferences? Getting ourselves there – from making the case, finding the funding, pinning down all the details of travel and accommodations, leaving work in the middle of summer reading…all the way down to schlepping all those cardigans with us across a great distance – can be no small feat. So, why do we do it? Is it all that great swag? Is it the marvelous learning opportunities? Some might argue it’s all about the networking!
Some things are just done best in person, and one of those things is networking. For newbies and seasoned professionals alike, networking affords a chance to make beneficial connections. Imagine: hundreds of like-minded folks, many passionate about the same things, many friendly and wanting to help, and all under the same roof. Magic happens! Ideas are bounced around, brains are picked, burning questions are answered, and connections are made that can have lasting effects long after we return home.
How to do it?
First off, orient yourself. Annual is a huge event and can be overwhelming, especially to first-timers. Alleviate the stress by doing some prep work. Peruse the Annual site. Figure out which sessions, meetings, and socials sound interesting to you. The conference’s Resources for First-Timers page gives a helpful breakdown of things to consider, and YALSA’s conference wiki is a great resource for YALSA conference activities.
Take time to think about who you are as a professional. Leigh Milligan of the website I Need a Library Job recommends preparing a short 30-second speech about yourself. Having something prepared can make introducing yourself go more smoothly. This reflection will also help you home in on the issues and events you really care about, and give you more to discuss with the like-minded people you’ll find there.
Come prepared with business cards and clothes that make you feel both comfortable and confident. ‘Nuff said.
Consider staying near the conference, sharing a room with other conference-goers, and/or volunteering. Instant networking!
Ask questions! One of the easiest ways to get a conversation started and to keep it going is to ask questions. This is your chance to do lots and lots of mini-informational interviews.
Relax, be yourself, and have fun. For many of us, Annual really only comes around once in a great while.
For more on the art of networking, check out Ava Iuliano’s recap of NMRT’s 2012 online panel, “Professional Networking for New Librarians.” The recap/panel discussion brings up excellent points such as the idea that networking is more like farming than hunting in the sense that, bit by bit, we are cultivating relationships in the long run.