Freelancing,  IPEd Con 2013,  Projects

How to network at an editors' conference

Or any other conference really. And by network, I mean meet, chatter, gossip with, not just pop up, deliver your 15 word elevator speech, exchange cards and dash off again. And for those who are still a bit behind, this is the 6th National IPEd Editors’ Conference we are discussing which will be held in Perth in Fremantle in April 2013. In about three months’ time in other words.

Port Beach, Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia

Before the conference (one is assuming you have already registered for it):

  1. Find the program – I have made it easy for you, it’s here. Check out the list of who will be there as speakers and presenters for each session. If the program doesn’t have it, the conference website will have bios and details of each presenter. Make a list of every single person you think would be in any way interesting for you to meet.
  2. Now check out their photographs and what they look like so you will be able to spot at least some of them from a distance.
  3. Next, decide what you want to talk to each person about. With some people, you may want information, with others you may want to talk business and others you might want to shanghai into corners for projects. If you can’t keep all this in your head, make a list. Or several.
  4. Now, get some business cards ready. Put down all your pertinent information – all the ways you want people to contact you, all the ways they can find out more, what you actually do and your name. It doesn’t have to look pretty necessarily and you can easily mock one up yourself. I designed mine.
  5. Now take your list of people and start running google searches on them. Some of these people have websites, some are on social media, some may have contact information available already. Start putting all this down. You will also be able to find out what they are currently working on which gives you an idea of what you can start talking about.
  6. Next, send them an email/tweet at them/call them up, introduce yourself, say you will be attending the conference and that you would love to meet them etc to talk about work/projects/information/picking their brain and ask which days/sessions/events they will be attending. Don’t be shy about it, most are more than willing to talk to you.
  7. You should now have a list of people you will be meeting at the conference, hopefully with a somewhat concrete idea of timing (“after session X and before session Y”).
  8. But you can do more! Contact the conference organiser – et voila, me – which means you don’t HAVE to email me because I can tell you now – and ask if they are planning anything extra special for networking events. And yes we are. If you are on Twitter, you can tweet at @editorswa that you are attending the conference and we can add you to a special list of twitter accounts for all those attending/speaking/presenting at the conference, giving you the ability to chat to them for ages before April even comes around. A similar option is to check out the Facebook page for the Society of Editors (WA) as many of the attendees across Australia and internationally follow it to keep updated. We are also having informal dinners that you can sign up for on the Wednesday and Friday nights so you can arrange to meet people at those beforehand. You are also welcome to organise your own casual networking meetups and if you want to let us know, we can publicise it for you so other interested attendees can come along.
  9. If you are really keen and you blog and you build up enough of a rapport with one of the speakers, write about them and their presence at the conference or what they intend to and post it online and send the link to the organisers so they can promote your work, the speaker and the conference all at once.Β  Check if the organisers have anything for the media such as press releases or statements that may be useful to you.

At the conference:

  1. Smart casual is best if you aren’t sure you will have time before the social events to change. Ditto flats rather than high heels. Try to look professional even if you are sure you are running into friends who won’t care so much.
  2. Bring your cards, your laptop/tablet (if you feel it is required) and your phone and any chargers and a notepad and pen and of course your lists and things like ID, keys, cash and medication. Don’t overload yourself because you can then put all this into the conference bag along with the goodies. I will say that you should bring a camera or have a camera option on your smartphone. And possibly have paid for data connection on your smartphone/tablet/laptop as a back up in case you cannot get connected to the venue’s internet (it happens even when everything is set up perfectly). If the conference has an app, download it (we are working on one).
  3. Don’t be a wallflower. Go up and talk to the people standing alone if you can’t spot anyone on your list. Ask them what they do. Do not be put off by people who assume that you should know who they are and are therefore rude to you – if you get that vibe from people, they are generally people you will not want to work with anyway. Thank everyone for their time.Across a Crowded Room
  4. Let’s assume you have chatted, made friends, and not just done the elevator speech thing, and that you have exchanged cards. Now say you want to remember the occasion and pull out the camera and take a picture. This also works if you haven’t got their card yet because if you take the picture, you will need to send them a copy as well and so they will have to give you their card. And then you can give them yours in case there is a communication mishap. This is also why it’s a great reason to volunteer as an official photographer at events (and no, sorry we have a few vollies already).
  5. If you have a blog: write blog posts about how the conference is going and add pictures and tell the conference organisers when each post goes up so then they can link to it and mention it on the website. Seriously, we’d be thrilled. This is called live-blogging an event.
  6. Another great thing to try, if you are on Twitter, is to live-tweet the event so you tweet while you are in sessions about what is being said from your laptop or smartphone. Every conference generally has a Twitter account (@editorswa) and a hashtag (#ipedcon2013) and someone monitoring it and doing crazy things with it to showcase it at the conference (muggins i.e. me). This makes you known to everyone attending as they wonder who had that brilliant flash of insight about the last session that everyone else retweeted.
  7. You won’t be able to have a conversation with every single person at the conference but try to say hi to everyone. And set up future meetings or catch up sessions with those closest to you and promise to email or chat with those who aren’t while you talk to them at the conference. This is so you keep those lines of communication open. Several people have formed little clubs and support groups and networks after meeting at conferences that have continued the process of helping them out with work and opportunities afterwards.
  8. At the end, go hug/thank the members of the organising committee just because it would be nice. It’s stressful organising an event like this and it’s nice to be appreciated for it. And we will probably be crying in relief and requiring a few hugs anyway. And it’s polite. Or buy them a drink, that works too. I’ll have a Bloody Mary, thanks. πŸ˜‰

After the conference:

  1. Email every single person you met or exchanged a card with the very next day. Refer to what you talked about – write it down on their card when you get it. Invite them to catch up in person or online.
  2. If you have any blog posts to write about the event, write them and send the link to the organisers.
  3. Give the organisers any feedback. It will help whether it is positive or negative.
  4. Upload the pictures and email them to the people. Then go post them on Facebook if you have it, go find the people in them and tag them if you know them or go become friends with them online. This gives you another way to continue the conversation.

So, what are you waiting for? The Early Bird discount for the conference ends on the 31st of January and places for the workshops are filling up fast so you better go register now.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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