Networking. You’ve likely been told that it’s good for you and will launch your scholarly communication career into the stratosphere, but sometimes it can feel like one of those bad dreams where you find yourself on stage in front of an audience and you’ve never even seen the script.
Whether you’re new to SSP and the 40th Annual Meeting is your first conference, or you’ve been attending for years, you can always pick up some new skills that can make networking effortless, rewarding, and maybe even fun.
Read on for ideas from some networking pros to advance from Networking 101 to graduating with your NeD (Doctor of Networking).
How and When to Introduce Yourself to New People
“I find the SSP community to be incredibly welcoming during networking events. A few thoughts I’d like to share, particularly for people new to our industry:
- At the annual meeting walk up to every vendor in the exhibit hall and introduce yourself and your role and ask how their organization supports them.
- When you are in line for food or drink, turn around and offer a handshake to the person behind you and introduce yourself.
- Take part in an SSP regional event. They are smaller and an intimate gathering of like-minded people.
- Don’t stick with your colleagues when networking. Go off on your own and meet new people.
- We all tend to use a lot of jargon that is specific to where we sit on the scholarly content supply chain. It’s ok to say to someone ‘what do YOU mean when you say “content management”?’ (for example). A tech person might assume something different than an acquisition person.”
-Marianne Calilhanna, Director of Marketing, Cenveo Publisher Services
Take a Direct or Indirect Approach
“Even though I’m a social person by nature, I often feel a little exposed and out of my element at networking events. I often see others that seem even more uncomfortable than I am. I try to take a moment to consider that we’re all in the same boat at these things.
If you’re feeling like I often do, it might be useful to consider these suggestions:
Take a direct approach: Take a moment to look around and find someone else who looks a bit like you’re feeling (you can usually spot them pretty easily). Then, pluck up your courage and walk over and introduce yourself with a smile and a comment such as ‘I’m Byron, I never know what to do at these sorts of events.’ Then after finding out a bit about your new friend, offer to introduce them to anyone else at the event that you already. That keeps everyone talking and they are often willing to return the favor.
Take an indirect approach: Situate yourself in an open, approachable area of the room and just stand there with a smile on your face, just paying attention to those around you. This can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but I find that the more open you are, the more likely that others will do the work for you and introduce themselves without you doing anything at all, like magic. I’ve met some of the most interesting people in this way, mainly because they tend to be people that I might not have tried to meet on my own!
Networking events can be highly valuable both personally and professionally and I find that I usually enjoy the process greatly once I settle in a bit.”
-Byron Laws, Nova Techset Limited, Fort Collins CO
Hang Out After Sessions and Speak to Panelists
“One approach to networking that I’ve always found valuable is talking to panelists or speakers after their session at a conference. Quite often, these folks will hang around after their talks to take additional questions or get feedback. Approaching them with, ‘I really enjoyed your presentation’ or a follow up question is a great way to break the ice. While the first time or two you try it, it may feel intimidating, I’ve found that they are almost always happy to say hello, answer additional questions, and even exchange business cards for follow up conversations. I’ve met some fantastic people this way and have retained many of those connections over the years.”
-Jennifer L. Pesanelli, CAE, Deputy Executive Director for Operations, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)
Check out the preliminary program for SSP’s 40th Annual Meeting to mark which panels you want to attend.
Have Conversation Starters Ready
“At a sit-down lunch or even in a session, if I’m in ‘network mode,’ I make a point to sit at a table or near someone that I don’t know. For introverts, it helps to know that most people enjoy talking about themselves. Not to be too formulaic, but some questions that can break the ice include those below. (And of course listen carefully to the other person and take the conversation where it leads you.)
- How did you like that last session?
- Have you been to SSP (or Conference X) before?
- Where are you from (business and geography)? How was your trip?
- Follow up questions about that organization…If you don’t know what they do, probe, if you’ve heard something in the news or through the grapevine, ask about it
- How did you get into scholarly publishing? (I love this one because it really helps you get to know the person, and I’m always interested in the answers, no matter how well I know the person).
After an extended conversation, most people exchange business cards or some other contact information. Then, follow up with people you want to get to know better. If something came up in the discussion that stays with you and you see something later that reminds you of the person, reach out and share it.
People talk about having an elevator speech prepared (there are lots of resources on this if you don’t have one at the ready), which is a good idea, but I think it is even more helpful to practice the art of drawing someone out.”
-Carol Anne Meyer, Aries Systems Corporation, Client Services
Take Care of Yourself
“For introverts (like me) it is also very important for us to respect our need for personal downtime. My advice is to choose in advance the times you are not going to network — that will help provide the physical and mental energy you need when you are networking.”
– Helen Szigeti, Program Director, Society for Scholarly Publishing
Join the Conversation Year-Round
These tips on networking were curated from a discussion on the SSP C3 Community site, which is a place for SSP members to connect, communicate, and collaborate. You can stay in touch with other SSP members and keep the conversation going between annual meetings by taking part in Community discussions and taking advantage of other member resources.
Meeting new connections virtually first can help break the ice when you get a chance to meet them in person, and can allow you to practice your networking skills.
Take Advantage of Structured Networking Activities at SSP
- The New Member/First-Time Attendee Breakfast is on Thursday, May 31, 2018 from 7:30-8:30. If you’re a first-time attendee and don’t know what to expect, this video will give you a great introduction and cover everything you need to know before traveling to Chicago.
- Lunch on Wednesday and Friday are Networking Luncheons, and on Thursday evening there’s a Networking Reception.
- Check out the preliminary program to identify other opportunities to network.
Have a Great Conference!
Don’t worry – there’s no final exam. Hopefully you’ve been able to pick up some new networking ideas to put into practice at the end of May.
Have a great time at SSP’s 40th Annual Meeting – see you in Chicago!