A primer on how to network at Academic conferences and beyond

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Missed the talk? Listen to it here!

Today, Professor and Post Doc Officer Dan Jay joined us for an excellent talk on how to improve your networking skills.


Here are some tips from Dan:

  1. What is your Mission: Decide what your immediate and longterm goals are when networking.  Where do you want to be in 10 years?
  2. Next, make yourself unique and easily distinguishable from others in your field.  Using these ideas, develop an elevator pitch.  Be interesting, but succinct.
  3. To establish your network, find mentors and mentor others.  This will form the beginning of your future network.
  4. Once you’ve begun to establish your network, make deeper connections.  Learn to market yourself and your value.


Developing your mission:

  • What is your deep passion?  People are attracted to true passion.
  • Be specific and leverage your gifts to make yourself stand out and be unique.  Bridge disciplines.
  • Work on something important (not incremental).  Don’t be afraid to embrace failure.
  • Use the “three strikes” rule.  Keep trying, and if it doesn’t work out, move on.
  • When you succeed, dive in and become the expert.

Cultivate mentors and mentor others

  • Ask for help and give help freely to others
  • Use these mentoring relationships to form the basis of your network
  • Be openly appreciative

Elevator Talks

  • This should be short -less than 1 minute
  • Demonstrate the relevance of your work and your passion
  • Be compelling and memorable, and meet the needs/help the listener.  What can you do for your listener?


  • Have a “small business” mentality.  You have a product – your ideas – to sell.
  • Be creative in your marketing.  How can you as a unique individual best get your message across?
  • Use the opportunity to be memorable to get your message across at meetings.  Leverage the opportunity.

Make Connections

  • Be open to opportunities and seek them out.
  • Do more for your connections than they do for you.
  • Use social networking- LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Quora.


The Point of an Academic Conference

  1. How to make connections
    1. Demonstrate mastery of your subject area.
    2. Be a leader (rather than a follower).  Do you recognize an opportunity or unmet need that you can address?
    3. Eat with others – it’s an easy way to socialize!
    4. Build your persona.  Introverts can learn to build their “extroverted” networking personality.
    5. Be memorable.  Approach people with the idea of who you want to build connections with.
    6. Follow up to cement the relationship (e-mail, etc.).
  2. How to prepare for a meeting
    1. Develop a professional, but authentic persona.
    2. Prepare ahead of time.  Is there someone you’d like to collaborate with?  Postdoc with?  Check out the attendees- consider emailing them ahead of time to schedule a cup of coffee.
    3. Be brave and meet new people.  Most people welcome such opportunities and want to meet you.
  3. How to work during a meeting
    1. Don’t spend time with your friends.
    2. Use meals, mixers and social events strategically.
    3. Ask about their work.  Do you have an idea about how to collaborate or help their research.
    4. Ask about follow up steps – exchange business cards and note down what you talked about.
    5. Ask questions at sessions and follow up (see step 1.6!).  If you’d like to establish a relationship with someone senior, follow up asking them to be a mentor.  Would they be willing to meet for coffee occasionally.


  • Define your goal.
  • Develop your unique skill set to meet this goal
  • Build your network
  • Market yourself
  • Enjoy the journey!