By: Tommey Liang
- Review the agenda
If there is an app, be sure to download it. The app is neat in that it lists the speakers and their biographies, the socials and receptions, the breakout sessions, map of the convention center and other daily necessary information. It helps to know who you are speaking with or listening to, to establish the foundation for a productive conversation.
Consider both the speaker and the subject matter when evaluation which workshops to attend. There is strategy and intentionality involved when going to a conference because you are only there for three or four days. Time is limited!
- Bring a decent amount of business cards
Be sure to have business cards to hand out, and others you meet may exchange one with you to reciprocate. You never know how many people, or who you are going to meet.
- Stray away from your group during the day; reconnect in the evening
If you’re going with your peers and colleagues from the same organization, be sure to designate different sessions and workshops for different individuals. That way you can maximize the conference. You can always reconnect with each other in the evening over a social, reception, or dinner. Conferences sometimes have different regions of the country get together in a space and mingle.
Flying solo can be refreshing because then you can network with other people from different colleges and universities. To me that is more fulfilling because you can always reconnect with your group when you come back to campus.
- Stay organized
You’re going to be overloaded with information every day. Take time to toggle your app, circle or mark up your agenda on sessions and workshops you would like to attend. Make notes on the backs of business cards to jot down what the conversation or interaction was about. Set reminders on your phone to go back to your hotel room if you need to recharge, or if you need to meet someone or be at a conference event at a certain time.
A beneficial tip: The night prior, set a schedule for the next day and plan where you will be hour-by-hour.
- Attend the career fair (if there is one)
Generally if you attend a National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), or another similar national organization, there tends to be recruiters during a particular time and day of the multi-day conference. Students do get hired for internships or full-time positions at these events. It will be worth your time and energy to bring a portfolio with multiple copies of your resume and talk to recruiters. Who knows – you may go back home with an interview or a job in hand. Even if you don’t, you will gain valuable networking skills and knowledge about different industry employers.
- Start and build strong relationships
You can strengthen friendships within your organization, start new ones with people from other institutions and even connect to speakers and presenters. A conference only happens once a year, so it is best to maximize the time you have with others. You will learn that building relationships will be instrumental in your career, so it’s time to get that practice in during a conference. Be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date as you may connect with people after a workshop or professional session.
- Take advantage of the social events
Not only are you going to a reception where you can mingle with others in the same region or the state, but also there is food for the most part. Receptions and socials complement the conference because it adds a not-as-serious element to it. When you’re attending and learning during a workshop, it is professional. When you’re walking the floor of a career fair, it is certainly professional. Socials are there for you to connect and reconnect with your friends, old and new, and reflect from the day.
- Follow-up on your new contacts
During the conference, you were collecting business cards, new Facebook friends, possibly Twitter and Instagram followers, maybe even LinkedIn contacts. Afterward, it’s time to act. Within a week of returning from the conference send a personal follow-up to everyone you met to let them know you enjoyed meeting them. This is where jotting down notes on the backs of business cards comes in handy. You can write: “Hi _____, it was a pleasure meeting you at the ____ Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado. I hope you made it back safely. It was great talking to you about wind tunnels and frozen yogurt recipes. Please accept my invitation to connect. Thank you.”
- Pay it forward
You acquired plenty of novel information, inspiration, and contacts at the conference. One of the best things you can do with those resources is to share them with your fellow friends and peers who didn’t attend. Share your notes, discuss the knowledge you learned and apply the information to situations in your own life and current or future work you will be doing.
A graduate of the University of Florida and master’s graduate of University of Central Florida, Tommey Liang is a program manager for aerospace engineering and computational mathematics students at Career Services – Daytona Beach. He enjoys watching anime, playing videos games and spending time with his partner. Feel free to connect with him on social media: Twitter | Instagram