Rethink the way you approach conferences

Treat 'people as colleagues and friends, rather than opportunities for personal gain'

Dreading an academic conference? Don't focus on racking up business cards—set your sights on making genuine connections with other attendees, Terry McGlynn writes for Chronicle Vitae

McGlynn, a biology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, notes that academic conferences can be especially intimidating to first-timers. It's even harder if you don't know anyone else there or aren't particularly outgoing.

But you actually have little to worry about, McGlynn says. People at conferences are usually quite friendly and will want to talk to you.

He says to think of conferences as opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with people in your line of work. Yes, you may meet people who can help you in your career, but this shouldn't be your first priority at a conference.

If you go in to a conference with the intention of simply schmoozing with influential people, your actions won't be appreciated. It's easy to tell when someone is making a real effort to build professional relationships versus hitting up people for jobs. So just be yourself. Relax and take the time to engage in deep conversations, building the foundation for long-lasting friendships.

"Meeting new people might not be easy, but conferences don't need to be more daunting than other arenas, if you're treating people as colleagues and friends, rather than opportunities for personal gain," McGlynn writes. 

Six ways to make the most of a conference

(McGlynn, Chronicle Vitae, 9/6). 

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