Friday, June 9, 2017

12 Tricks to Get Yourself Talking to Strangers at Conferences

Going to a conference can be an exciting and overwhelming time! I am an outgoing person, but even at conferences, I find myself more of an observer. It is hard getting yourself to talk to strangers, so we pulled together a list of tips (some of which were shared on ALA Think Tank) to help you get the most out of your experience:

1. Wear comfy shoes, bring water and snacks. Wear layers! You won't feel like talking to people if you're uncomfortable or hungry.

2. Memorize a quick 30 second speech about who you are and what you do at your library. Return the question to them (or ask them first) and follow up with specifics about what they do. Every library is different, so don't assume that they have the same job responsibilities as you, even if you're both in the same department.

3. If you are active on social media in librarian circles, make sure to change your profile picture to one of your current face so people can easily identify you. Tell followers you're excited about the conference so they know you are going and reach out to attendees you're following that you would like to meet. Don't worry if you haven't met them face to face before, it is great opportunity to connect in person now!

4. Talk to everyone around you, including exhibitors. They can tell you about fun initiatives and new technology that are available for libraries and some of them even offer free books (bring extra bags so you can carry them around!).

5. Mix your sessions up with a combination of ones that are relevant to your current job and others that will make you think. Arrive to them a bit early and ask the person next to you what interests them the most about this topic. Also, if you are attending a conference for multiple days, don't try to attend every single session. Pick your favorites and plan some downtime to connect with people.

6. Ask people for their business cards, and then make notes on the back to remember the interaction. Take a photo of both sides with your phone so you don't lose them.

7. Make your own business cards and don't be shy about handing them out.

8. Follow the conference Twitter hashtag to learn about sessions you weren't able to attend (ALA Annual's hashtag for this year is #ALAAC17). Use IFTTT to automatically send your tweets into a document (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) so you aren't trying to take notes and tweet at the same time.

In addition to the above tips, we also found a few more that we liked from Leil Lowndes' book on How To Talk to Anyone:

     9. Plan engaging conversation starters. If someone asks you about where you are from or what library you work at, share the name and then some interesting facts that they can respond to.

     10. Wear or carry something unique so that people will have something they can comment on when they are trying to strike up a conversation with you. (We have a great list of Bookish Apparel and Librarian gifts that could be helpful.)

     11. If you want to keep the conversation going but don't know what to say, repeat the last few words your conversation partner says to prompt them to keep going.

     12. Stay current on that day's news so that you'll be able to participate in conversations.

Happy conferencing! Hopefully, a few of these tips will work for you and you'll be able to find a group of librarians that'll making attending conferences a tenfold more fun!

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