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Tips to successfully networking at this year’s IASNR Conference


Co-Chair: Mysha Clarke

Council Member, University of Florida, USA

Networking at conferences can be such a rewarding experience. It can lead to many collaborations and even friendships. However, networking can also be very challenging, especially for new members. The Professional Development Committee has compiled some tips from IASNR members to help you successfully network at the upcoming IASNR Conference!

“Networking is paramount to continuous attendance at any conference. IASNR makes it easy to network by having a relaxed atmosphere of individuals who work hard and play hard. It helps lead to lifelong friendships and rigorous scholarly work.” – Milton Newberry, Sustainable Technology Director, Center for Sustainability and the Environment, Bucknell University

How has networking at IASNR conferences helped in your career?

  1. “IASNR conference networking has helped me meet and deepen connections with colleagues. Some of those connections have led to collaborations on projects, proposals, and creative brainstorming.” – Jesse Abrams, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia (IASNR member for 13 years).
  2. “IASNR conferences have been instrumental in meeting up with manuscript and book co-authors, agency research scientists, and recruiting students, and all wrapped-up in relaxed contexts of conference venues.” – Bill Stewart, Professor, University of Illinois (IASNR member for 35 years).
  3. “Network at IASNR conferences has especially helped me build international projects, and link to positions that open in various countries.” – Rose Keller, Researcher, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (IASNR member for 3 years).
  4. “The primary benefit has been the student pipeline, having great trainees join my team based on connections made at IASNR.” – Kate Sherren, Professor, Dalhousie University (IASNR member for 10 years).
  5. “Networking at IASNR has helped me meet lifelong friends and colleagues and expand the scope of my work. I have developed new research projects and community engagement opportunities after attending IASNR conferences.” – Milton Newberry, Sustainable Technology Director, Center for Sustainability and the Environment, Bucknell University (IASNR member for 8 years).

What are some barrier(s) to networking successfully at conferences?

Despite the many benefits of successfully networking at conferences, it can still be sometimes daunting, overwhelming or exhausting for many conference attendees. Below are other challenges expressed by IASNR members to successful networking …

  • “There’s always a lot to do in a limited time at conferences–I end up having a lot of short conversations but it can be hard to find time and opportunity for deeper dialogues”
  • “My most common barrier is being tired and not having enough energy by the middle of a conference to exude enthusiasm!”
  • “Being from a non-US country without ‘critical mass’ and feeling isolated can make it hard to break into conversations.” 
  • “Very large groups are hard to break into, feeling that others are already connected” 
  • “Personally, I have a difficult time with formal networking events, so instead I seek out more informal options like field trips, etc.”
  • “Time and facilitation are major barriers to networking successfully at conferences. The conference is packed with sessions and meetings that makes it hard to find free time for people to actually meet and network. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to network for specific needs (e.g., graduate student career mentoring, research opportunities, grantsmanship, etc.) when we do not have an individual to lead the process of networking and help attendees connect.”

Advice from IASNR members to successfully network at IASNR conferences?

Preparation before the conference

  • Sign up and attend a field trip if possible! Pre-conference field trips are excellent places to meet both new and established members, and gives you the time to share your project(s, ideas) and hear what others are exploring. Then common interests, research questions or collaboration ideas start flying! 
  • Maximize your conference time. Look at the attendee list and decide on a few people you want to make an effort to meet and talk to. It is usually pretty easy to arrange this at the various events. 
  • Networking means talking with another person with a purpose.  Come to the conference with a few people who you have a purpose in meeting, and if possible, contact them beforehand to let know you’d like to meet-up
  • Find your connector. There are individuals at IASNR who can either connect you to others or are gregarious enough to assist you in meeting others. They can assist in small talk, elevator speeches, and overall collegial conversations.

Networking during the conference

  • Embrace the awkward! It can be uncomfortable to email or approach someone, but 90% of the time they will be receptive. 
  • Get your sleep and drink your caffeine.
  • Ask questions at presentations, and people will want to network with you. Networking is a two-way street.
    • Go talk to a speaker after their presentation and ask a meaningful question.
  • Attend keynotes, sit next to someone you don’t know, and ask them what reflections they have from the talk, and if they would pull these into their own work and how.
  • A great deal of networking occurs outside of the professional setting at IASNR. Being present when colleagues socialize can help with networking and having conversations outside of rehashing your elevator speech. This includes attending meals, pre- and post-conference field trips, and  socializing after hours. Additionally, the social bonds created during these events/occurrences can help solidify the professional bonds that are also formed. Work is important, and you are more than your work and research. Socializing can display the wonderful individual you are that can lead to future work collaborations!
  • Posters are a great way to get started meeting people in a new organization. You’ll have dozens of new contacts, which doesn’t happen in a typical presentation. 
  • Participate in networking events, even if you feel uncomfortable at first–IASNR people are friendly!
  • Allow time during each day of the conference for people to wind down and mingle with people after the schedule list of events.
  • Avoid spending unstructured time with only your existing network–try to meet new people.
  • Don’t overextend networking. Most people you meet at a conference will be for fun and inspiration, and initially are not about networking. Every person has something to share that you will appreciate.  Look for something to appreciate.
  • I recommend attending the more relaxed events at the conference which allow for conversation. For the introverted and ambiverted attendees, store up your social battery for this time so you can use that energy to connect and conversate with others. For the extroverted attendees, help your more introverted colleagues (if they ask for it) with connecting and facilitating conversations. However, do not maximize the conversation so the introverted people and the quiet people are left out. Leave a path for others to enter and carry the conversation. The session talks typically involve listening and focus on the scholarship, so this time can be used for everyone to recharge.
  • Feel free to join a group during a meal or break and listen/engage in the conversation.
    • Introduce yourself in smaller settings like a session or meetings.
  • Jump into sessions you normally wouldn’t (outside your area, or on the border) and talk with presenters afterward. Often new ideas and collaborations are stimulated this way!

Networking after the conference

  • Make concrete plans to connect after the conference, then follow through.
  • Send follow-up emails to anchor your name in the minds of those you really want to remember you. 
  • Need to plan for meeting-up with others, and also follow-up after the conference, which requires organizational efforts and dedicated time.  Going to a conference is far more than the 5 days spent at the conference.

Networking Happy Hour at IASNR Conference in Portland, Maine

While at IASNR conference this year, the Professional Development Committee is hosting a “Networking Happy Hour” at the Port of Call Restaurant on Monday, June 12th at 7:00 – 9:00 pm EST. We look forward to meeting you and hosting this event for you to meet or reconnect with other IASNR members while enjoying some delicious small bites and refreshments!

Until then,

Professional Development Committee (Chair – Mysha Clarke, Members – Casey Taylor, Jill Weiss, Milton Newberry, Mark Romealue)