1) Have a business card ready
The more creative the business card design, the better. I remember this one business card I collected at an African Women conference. I couldn’t put it away after saving the details. It looked so good sitting on my desk, I couldn’t let it go. This of course meant that every morning, I would remember I met this lady.
2) Wear comfortable shoes
This might appear a given, but can easily be taken for granted. If you are going to work the room, you want to do it conveniently. It’s hard work enough making small talk and wringing your brain for ice-breakers. To add aching toes to the mix wouldn’t make you great company for others.
3) Be genuinely interested in other people’s research
Nothing cracks the exterior of a researcher than someone who is willing hear about their work. I always learn something new when I listen to what someone else’s research is about. Of course, the rule of thumb is after they have shared with you, they’ll ask you about your research too. Bingo. Do try not to look like you were passively letting them have their go, then you suddenly “come alive” when it’s your turn.
4) Work the Twitter-Room too
In recent times, many academics are finding the value in being active on Twitter. Also, conferences and workshops hardly take place these days without a hashtag. This means, you can interact, that is, network, with people in the room online, during the conference.
There was this workshop I attended, I was live-tweeting the speakers as they made their presentations. During the lunch break, it was pure bliss to meet the fellow Twitter-people in person. The classic moment is usually, “oh you are Stylish Academic, I was trying to look round the room for you.”
This gives you an opportunity to pre-break-the-ice before the face-to-face meet. Also, you will increase your social capital, expand your network, and create the potential for collaboration. Become a digital academic.
5) Smile, look good, and be approachable
It’s difficult to smile genuinely at strangers. Even I have mastered the classic faux-smile. You know that smile you give a stranger that says, “don’t you dare say a word to me or even come close”? Non-verbal cues are as important as verbal communication. Be mindful of your body language. What is it saying? Folded arms say “keep off” for instance. Open and somewhat visible palms say “you’re welcome to my space.” Now I don’t mean hold your palms out and walk round the room like a prophet in a trance.
Looking good is important also. Without looking like you stepped out of a Vogue ad, you can pull off stylish in a manner attracts positive energy to you. We like to be around people who look good.
It is often said that academic events are places where fashion has come to die, but that is why I founded this blog. No more fashion faux-pas’.
In networking, be approachable. At the first academic conference I attended in London, I stashed myself away in a corner. My feet hurt from the stilettos I made the error of wearing, and no one would approach the frowning lady in a pink shirt.
Be confident. Fake it if you have to. Be determined not to leave that room without having a good time.
Photography by Kosol/Model – Kosol