How To ‘Work It’ at a Professional Conference

    Posted on Friday, Oct 14, 2016
    What is the best way to introduce myself to a potential collaborator, mentor, or professional?

    How do I talk to famous scholars and educators at a conference?

    What is the secret to effective networking?

    Have these questions ever crossed your mind while thinking about establishing or strengthening your professional network? Here is some advice from 3 emerging professionals in the field of Health Education and Behavior who are ROCK STARS at networking and ‘working it’ in the professional conference arena!

    Responses elicited from Hannah Priest Catalano, PhD, CHES, Assistant Professor in Public Health Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Britany L. Rosen, PhD, CHES, Assistant Professor in Health Promotion & Education at the University of Cincinnati, and Meagan M. Shipley, PhD, CHES, Clinical Assistant Professor in Health Education at Texas A&M University.
    Networking at Conferences & Meetings

    Conferences and annual meetings are a goldmine for networking and meeting new people!
    Try these tips:
    • Examine the content of the program as well as who will be presenting
    • Attend as many relevant sessions and social events as possible.
    • Wear your name tag to the sessions and events. People will be more likely to remember your name if they can see it!
    • Always bring business cards wherever you go – you never know when you will be introduced to other professionals.
    Networking within the Field
    As an emerging professional, you need to have a plan to introduce yourself. Try this:
    My name is _____________, I study at ______________, under __________________, I read your article (XXX), and I would love to talk with you after the conference or later (state action plan).
    When communicating online with a potential collaborator or professional, consider this:
    • Introduce yourself, including university of study, advisor/mentor, and research area.
    • Describe your research interests using concise language.
    • Lay out a detailed action plan, giving specific examples, of how/why that person can help you!
    • Always attach your curriculum vitae (CV) to the email.
    • After communication (i.e., in person or electronic), ALWAYS follow-up with a thank-you.
    Selecting a Professional Home
    Identify organizations/agencies by (1) communicating with peers, colleagues, or community members by word of mouth; and (2) conducting a Google search for your interest area.
    • Choose one or more professional organizations that align with your professional goals and interests.
    Take Home Messages
    You can never develop too many networks or professional relationships. The more involved you become, the more you will develop as a student and future professional in any field!
    Be open to exploring different avenues and opportunities.  
    No experience is EVER BAD! It could be negative, but you can always get skills which are transferrable to another setting or opportunity.
    Think outside the box for potential professional collaborations – there is no need to limit collaborations to within your discipline only. Interdisciplinary work is valuable and necessary!

    Leigh Szucs | Health and Kinesiology
    Leigh is a PhD candidate in the Department of Health & Kinesiology, pursuing a doctoral degree in Health Education. Her research and teaching experiences focus on the effectiveness of teen pregnancy prevention program (TPP) implementation practices among curriculum-based intervention models.

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