How Do I Network at Professional Events?

networking at professional events

The ACS National Meeting is coming up and I’m excited to go for the first time… but I’m nervous about networking at professional events. I’d like to be able to use this meeting to make some new connections and have a little fun, but I’m bad at talking to strangers. I know I’ll spend the whole conference checking my phone if I go in without a game plan. How do I network with my fellow librarians? Help!

You’re putting way too much pressure on yourself! It’s okay to be nervous about networking at professional events. It’s a situation many people struggle with, not just librarians. Think about it this way: If everyone else in the room was a master networker, you wouldn’t have to introduce yourself – someone else would always approach you. Networking is hard for everyone!

So what can you do? Instead of beating yourself up for being “bad at talking to strangers,” try thinking of ways you can make it easier for people to talk to you.

  • Bring a buddy: If you’re attending an event with an existing friend or coworker, don’t just talk to each other the entire time. Expand your circle! It’s easier to talk to strangers when you have a friend to help you keep the conversation going. Be inclusive and look to make connections with people who look like they too are having a hard time networking. That could have been you!
  • Do a little pre-planning: You can use librarian-focused networks like the ACS CINF, SLA Chemistry, or ACRL-STS discussion lists to find other librarians who are attending the same event. Make plans to meet up at the show and do a little networking together.
  • Use social media: Use the event’s official hashtag on Twitter to ask if any librarians attending the conference want to get together for a networking session or a bit to eat during the event. If you are at a librarian-focused event, try asking if anyone from your hometown wants to get together – being from the same area will make it easier to stay in touch.
  • Practice: Having a practiced introduction can make a world of difference, especially if you are still feeling shy. Help people put you in context. Explain who you are and what you do, but try to take it a step further. Give your new friend an opening by saying something that invites a comment or a question to keep the conversation flowing. It could be as simple as “This is my first time at this event,” or “I want to learn more about X at this conference.”
  • Read the room: If all else fails, look for someone else who can’t stop checking Twitter and go make friends with them. They will be glad you did.

Librarians answer tough questions every day, but sometimes even they get stumped. Every month, ACS Library Relations Manager Michael Qiu picks one of your burning questions to answer with the painstaking care you would expect from a librarian. Send him your best questions at M_Qiu@acs.org and he might address your issue in a future edition of this column.

If you have comments or questions for the author of this post, please e-mail: Axial@acs.org.