This time I am giving some tips about conference presentations. In these days of virtual communications, the conference has changed as a way of discussing research, exchanging ideas and connecting with people. This is the first of a three part series on conferences and how to make the most of them. Due to popular demand, this first session is on adapting your networking strategies for the virtual conference, the next session is on proposal writing and the final one focuses on session delivery.
Plan your networking
One of the best ways to make the most out of conference participation, whether virtually or in person, is to start early. If you do not have a list of all conference participants before the conference, start with the presenters. Choose who you want to meet and reach out to them by email or video around two weeks before the conference is scheduled to begin.
Introduce yourself purposefully
Explain why you are contacting the conference participants, mention your interest in their research work and why this appeals to you, giving some kind of context. Also mention your own presentation if you have one, including its title and when it is when it is scheduled. Ask about a virtual meeting at a particular point in the conference.
Link up during the conference
How you do this depends on your own schedule and the schedule of the other person. This might be pre-planned. Or it might happen randomly as you participate in the sessions, which is one of the joys of coming together at a conference. If the person is delivering a presentation or workshop, you could make yourself and your ideas known by engaging in the chatroom or Q and A during it. Sharing links to information is a quick and easy way to do this. However, as this is a busy time for the presenter, it is probably not the ideal time to really make an impactful connection.
You can find other opportunities during a breakout session, a virtual networking event, or even a break of some kind. For this, it is vital to have some way of connecting with that person privately (see plan your networking above). Alternatively, contact the convenor of the session to send a message to the person you want to meet.
Vary your strategies
Have any forums been set up for the conference? How many different communications tools do you use? This of course depends where you live. WeChat? Facebook Messenger? WhatsApp? Skype?
Follow up after the conference
Once it is all over, what happens now? This is up to you, but of course not only you. If you are persistent or lucky with following up, you might find yourself included in some very relevant ongoing group discussions. If you have the capacity, you could offer invitations to something from your own institution or an online group you are involved with.
I hope some of these ideas help you to purposefully develop professional connections through online conferences.