Networking Tips for the ER&L Conference

Written by Chad Hutchens, E-Resources Librarian, University of Wyoming Libraries

We’ve already talked about the relative size of the ER&L conference. Not too small, not too big, just right! The number of attendees at ER&L makes networking with new and existing colleagues much easier than it is at large conferences where it’s all to easy to hide (or get lost) in the crowd. Here are some ideas to keep in mind while you’re in Austin this April.

First and foremost, try not to forget your business cards. This should go without saying, but we’ve all done it once or twice. Likewise, if you have a question or find yourself in an engaging discussion with someone with whom you’d like to remain in contact, ask for their business card. After the conference, try to touch base with the people you’ve met. The network of professional colleagues and friends you build will benefit you in many ways…and remember, LibraryLand is small and you never know who you’ll run into in the future at other conferences!

There are a good number of short and long breaks built into ER&L’s 2012 conference schedule. This will provide for lots of opportunities to chit chat with colleagues over coffee and light refreshments in the hallways and informal meeting venues at the AT&T Conference Center. In addition to striking up conversations with people during breaks, take advantage of the fact that this is not a huge conference and 99% of the time, you will have the opportunity to ask questions of presenters either during the Q&A periods or after presentations. Some of the best information sometimes comes from a one-on-one conversation with presenters who know a lot about a particular topic. And, do wear your badge with your name on it…you might already know someone but you may not have ever met them in person. Without your badge, they’ll never know who you are.

OK…so you say you’re a bit shy and hesitant to just walk up to a complete stranger and introduce yourself? If that’s you, consider attending one of the Pre-Conference Workshops. In addition to spending a longer duration of time on a specific topic and getting some hands-on experience, the longer duration of the Pre-Conference Workshops will allow you to settle in a bit. These workshops also tend to be in smaller groups and offer attendees the chance to speak to others during the session.

While the regular breaks and workshops give great opportunities for networking and meeting new colleagues, there are also other opportunities built into the schedule. Be sure to make it to the Welcome Reception at the beginning of the conference. This is usually a venue with light refreshments where you can wander from group to group, catch up with old colleagues, and even make plans for lunch, dinner, or something fun in the upcoming days with others before schedules get too tight. The Vendor Reception offers a similar opportunity on a different evening. And speaking of lunch, dinner, and things to do in Austin, there are lots of great places to eat and visit near the conference center. Check the ER&L website for restaurant and other recommendations. Informal meals with colleagues are always a great way to learn something new so try not to eat by yourself, unless of course, you really need to do so. And if you’re going to see something else on the UT campus or in Austin, see if a colleague wants to go with you…it’s no more difficult than asking a stranger to take your photo!

Keep an eye on ER&L’s Facebook page for the latest updates to the conference schedule; there will likely be more specific dates, times, and opportunities that arise as we approach April. Last, if you have any networking ideas of your own, feel free to tweet them…the conferences Twitter handle is “ERandL.”