I just came back from CHI conference (http://chi2014.acm.org/), and after talking with other PhD students I realised what I did wrong when trying to network. If only I had known this stuff before…. oh well, lesson learnt for the next upcoming conference!
People that are like rockstars in your field might not have time to chat with you or, if they find a few minutes, they might not still be working on that paper you love citing so much.
1. Don’t aim only for the “big names”.
Questions are good if you want a specific short answer on the paper they just presented, but it’s more likely that you want to have a long conversation with that person and that’s hardly going to happen at the end of a presentation. Especially cause people want to run off to the next session.
2. Don’t just go for questions at the end of a presentation talk.
Twitter can be a more informal way to approach someone at a conference and arrange a moment when you can have more time to chat about research. Coffee breaks and lunches are a good time to schedule appointments.
3. Tweet people to meet them up during the conference for coffee or lunch.
But don’t rely on other to introduce you to others. People are busy at conferences, catching up with old acquaintances, friends, colleagues. It is ok to remind them they promised you they’d introduce you to that particular researcher.
4. Get people (aka your supervisor) to introduce you to others.
5. Look up pictures of people before going to the conference.
If you have a visual memory like me, knowing what people look like helps knowing who you are looking for to meet. I realised I knew lots of names, but had no clue what people looked like. And yes, we were all wearing name tags during a conference, but coffee cups, hands and clothes tend to cover them up!
It gives you a better understanding of the research and more opportunities to talk about that piece of research.
6. If you can, read the papers before going to the talk.
I’m still working on this one. But practice makes perfect 🙂
7. There’s no time to be shy!