Why Conference Receptions Are A Great Place to Start Networking

conference reception for networking

 

Do you dread going to the welcome reception at a conference? Or the opening night get together? A lot of people do, especially if they attend the conference alone or are a first timer. However, going to the first night’s event when attending an administrative conference is a great way to start meeting the people with whom you will spend the next 3 or 4 days. It’s also a great opportunity to meet the associates at the company hosting the conference.

I know for the team at Office Dynamics, we love meeting and greeting our attendees. We are so eager to welcome everyone and make them feel at home right away. It also gives us an opportunity to be in a casual environment with our conference attendees so we can get to know them before we get very busy hosting the event.

 

Other benefits to you are that you might just meet another interesting executive assistant. You will be exposed a broader audience; assistants who work in various companies, industries, and size businesses. It’s also great fun to meet people from other cities and countries. We have had attendees from Nigeria, France, Germany, Italy, Qatar, and England.

 

conference reception 3

 

I have to admit that not all conference welcome receptions or meet and greets are fun. I have been to a few of those myself. Or I have found it is not as much fun when you attend a conference with 1,000+ attendees. You lose the intimacy and it is much harder to get to know people.

 

The point, still, is that you should make your travel arrangements so that you can attend the first evening’s activity whatever it might be. It also helps you get in the right frame of mind to start the actual conference the next day. Be sure to bring your business cards and hand them out as you introduce yourself. And collect any information you can from your new “conference friends.”

 

A great way to start a conversation is to ask someone, “Is this your first administrative conference?” Or, in our case, “Is this the first time you are attending an Office Dynamics conference?” If yes, ask them, “What do you like best about attending this particular conference?” People love to talk about themselves so it is good to ask them about their work.

 

conference reception 2

 

If you attend a conference with your administrative peers, be sure to break away and meet people you don’t know. You can talk to your buddies anytime. This is your chance to make new friends and build networks. You never know when these people can be of assistance to you in the future. Plus you want to gain as many new ideas as you can.

 

The main thing is to show a sincere interest in people. When you show a sincere interest in them, they will do the same with you.

 

 

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Joan Burge
Founder and CEO

Training for Executive and Administrative Assistants

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19 thoughts on “Why Conference Receptions Are A Great Place to Start Networking”

  1. This article is so timely for me. I have been struggling to fit in at my new job since December 2015. This job is a step up in position for me and one with more responsibilities. I get on well with the professional and paraprofessional staff; however, the two admins have been hostile and unkind since day one. It is a small office of 25 people and it seems the two admins “rule the roost.” I appreciate the ideas from each of you and endeavor to implement them into my day. I would like to stay at this job for many years (as most of the staff has 15+ years there). So, I’ll press on – being open, honest and friendly towards all my co-workers. Once again, Office Dynamics is my partner in this chosen career path. Thank you!

  2. The reception is definitely the ideal place to start off with networking and hopefully meeting the speakers. It’s an opportunity to meet others with the same interest, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding a common conversation piece and letting it flourish from there. In our line of work, we tend to be the outgoing and helpful ones. I take as a great opportunity to catch eyes the next day and find new buddies to sit with at each track. I have come across a few EAs the I still communicate with to this day. One might not even know her full impact on my professional career…or that I consider her my virtual mentor. I would have never met her had I not caught eyes, a smile, plopped down at her table, and started conversation. The real trick is learning to maintain connection AFTER the conference.

    I will definitely have my business cards ready at my next EA conference!

    1. Rachael thank you for pointing out the necessity to stay connected after the event. Many people (including me) have good intentions of staying connected while we are at the conference or workshop and then we get back home; get busy; life happens…. and we don’t stay connected. Great advice.

  3. Kymberly Brown

    Great topic! When I went to my first Office Dynamics conference, I ended up meeting an admin from Lockheed in Georgia. We met at the next two conferences and have formed a friendship outside of our jobs. We have traveled together to New Orleans, Atlanta. She has since visited me at my home in Oregon and we have even taken a cruise together in 2014!

    1. When the two of you first met I would have thought you were lifelong friends! It’s amazing how we can run across these “soul mate” friends in an instant. Never miss the opportunity to create a connection like this.

  4. I have definitely struggled with corporate social situations where I felt like I didn’t know anyone. One thing that really helped me to grow my confidence was to go in with a set of empowering assumptions that set the stage for a great event:

    FIrst – it’s an industry event: you can reasonably be expected not to know the majority of attendees;
    Second – most people are there to learn new things and meet new people – just like you!; and
    Third – look for people who seem a bit lost or are hiding on the edges of the activity – take the time to notice them, and introduce yourself. You and they will be glad you did. (I know, because too often, that person has been me.)

    Having business cards also really helps. If your company won’t print some for you, print a card of your own, with your name, contact info and perhaps something that gives a little insight into who you are: e.g. a brief statement of your personal philosophy, or your list of core values.

    Finally – be aware of your own cycles. As I progress through perimenopause, I’ve become prone to exaggerated mood swings; out of the blue I can go from on top of the world to deeply depressed. Obviously, this has a huge impact on my ability to navigate social situations.

    For example, last fall, after years of growing comfort (and even enjoyment) of these situations, I found myself at a social fundraiser hiding in my car in tears, wishing I could just go home. Fortunately, I checked my calendar, and realized I was “under the influence”. Recognizing this helped me to put my game face back on and, while I didn’t aggressively work the room, I put in a passable appearance, and even shared a few laughs with my Spelling Bee team.

    We bombed out in the first round of the spelling bee (go figure?!), but we did it with smiles on our faces. The evergreen advice “know thyself” helped to get me there.

    1. Tara, I like the three assumptions you tell yourself before stepping into an event. Anything we can do to make it less intimidating can help us to get our “feet in the door.”

    2. Tara, that is excellent advice. I love your approach. Keep it up. It’s also good that you are cognizant of any mood swings but you push forward. Thanks for being so open.

  5. The Office Dynamics Event of Distinction is the BEST conference for assistants that I have ever attended. It is full of interesting an useful information, the speakers are always amazing and engaging! I am anxiously looking forward to October!!

    1. Thank you so much, Becke! We have an another awesome conference in store this year. More surprises; great speakers; a fun new venue and we’ll be going to see the Michael Jackson ONE Show. I hope you are joining us.

  6. Networking does not come easy for me by any stretch of the imagination. When I am around people I don’t know, my mind goes blank and my mouth freezes up. I know that networking is important, but how do I get past my natural, reserved self?

    1. Kathi, Tara’s comment might be helpful for you. Also, make it about them. Ask questions of genuine interest to get to know more about them as a person. It’s really interesting how we can build relationships with others when we take the focus off of the “so, what do you do?” question.

      Ask if they have lived in this city their whole life…what are their favorite activities… – you’ll find that as they answer your questions you’ll have more questions about them that you can ask. Keep it natural and genuine.

      I have a friend who always asks people what their first concert was. It gives them something to talk about in an area that she knows a lot about having been to countless concerts in her lifetime.

      If the questioning is too never-wracking – use the wall-flower tactic. Scan the room and find someone who looks equally uncomfortable with the situation. They are usually standing off the to sides, alone and looking around the room trying to get the courage up to talk to someone. Be that person! Approach them, introduce yourself. Be honest and let them know these things make you a little nervous. Get a conversation going and when the two of you feel you’ve had enough, invite them along with you to find another individual to meet. I use a line like this, “Kathi, it’s been so great to meet you! Do you want to come along with me and get to know a few more people?”

      Once you start to get to know people in the room you can even use that knowledge to start introducing people to one another and that makes you look like a great networker (but it’s really a great tactic for people who find networking uncomfortable).

    2. Dear Kathi –

      Networking has not come easily to me either, but it is a skill truly worth investing in, and will pay huge dividends of enjoyment and learning. Engaging in social media like this is a GREAT first step: just look at you and me, right here and now, networking online!

      The biggest thing that helped me in my growth was putting myself into safe practice situations. There are lots of local networking clubs formed for just this purpose; for me, it was joining my company Toastmasters club and then getting out to events outside of the club level that really helped, especially the district-level training events and conferences. Also, by volunteering to help with events, I built lots of great new relationships, and I felt confident in approaching others…because I had to.

      In fact, Toastmasters core mission is to create a safe and welcoming environment where members can grow their communication and leadership skills – including networking! So if you have a local club you can check out (guests are always welcome), I’d highly recommend it,

      Best regards,

      Tara

    3. Kathi, in addition to the advice provided by Jasmine, I want to share an excerpt from our book Who Took My Pen…Again? by Joan Burge, Jasmine Freeman and Nancy Fraze)

      “You are someone others should meet. You are valuable and you have something to contribute. You could make a tremendous difference just be being friendly and meeting new people.

      Why? At its very base, business is about connecting people. As you learn and become more comfortable connecting to people and then connecting people you know together, you will become a strategic networker. And that can easily translate into sales, knowledge and opportunity.

      The biggest obstacle to networking is insecurity. Too many people do not stretch themselves beyond their tiny comfort zones. These people prize safety and sameness. At meetings, they always sit with the same co-worker. They carpool to offsite meetings with that same person. They do not carry business cards. They arrive at meetings just on time, take a seat and speak to no one. They cling to what is safe and comfortable and miss opportunities to make new friends, find jobs, learn information that could help them and more.

      It really boils down to this: you are worth meeting. You are worth knowing. You have something vital to share that no one else can: your perspective. If you withhold that from the world, it will be a smaller, sadder place. You belong to the world, so be willing to share yourself by becoming a good network aficionado.”

      1. Preach, Joan! LOL! <> I have my book here at my desk at work. I read and mark it up whenever I have the chance.

        Yes, we are all worth knowing. Just by being our true selves brings value to any situation.

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