Networking, Personal Development

Make New Friends but Keep the Old: Connecting at Conferences

Professional society and industry conferences are a great time to connect with old friends or colleagues that you may have moved away from or just may not get to see that often. They are also an excellent time to meet new friends.

There are lots of different opportunities at conferences and workshops to meet up with people and make new friends.

1)     Sign up for a Social Event, or Tour-Many conferences have social events in the evening or event tours during the day depending on the type of event you are attending. Tours and social events are an excellent way to meet new people and strike up a conversation. You can usually find a mutual interest from the social event or tour.

“Did you like the performance?”

“Can you believe that is how that is made?”

2)     Volunteer!-Sometimes conferences need volunteers for various activities like checking in attendees or session monitors. Volunteering at the event you are attending is an excellent way to meet other conference attendees and to help out the event that you enjoy participating.

3)     Eat and Be Brave- Have a meal at a table with someone you do not know. There are some great lunches, dinners, networking events at conferences and workshops. We tend to gravitate towards those we know, but go ahead and sit at that table with those you do not and introduce yourself. You never know what interesting people you will meet.

4)     Go Bold and Get a Roommate (or 2)- Sometimes for a conference, you can find an email or message board of people looking for roommates to save on on the costs of attending the conference. If you are brave, go bold and ask online or through one of these emails to be paired with a roommate that you may not know. You will meet some interesting people and learn a lot about yourself in the process.

Now that you have some ideas on how to meet new people and make new friends at conferences do not forget about scheduling a time to connect with old friends or colleagues as well.

1)     Find out ahead of time whom you know that plans to attend the conference and how long they are staying

2)     Schedule time for lunch, dinner, coffee, or some other shenanigans

3)     Attend a friend’s presentation

4)     Rideshare to or from the airport (or make it a road trip to the conference location)

5)     After the conference, try an extended stay or a vacation for some extra quality time

Try out these tips next time you attend a conference or workshop and see how your circle of friends and colleagues shine. Don’t forget to follow up with new and old friends after conference letting them know it was pleased to meet them or see them again and that you would like to keep in touch and hopefully meet again at another event.


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