TCG 411: Conference Conviviality

The Season to Socialize

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

Conference season is upon us – which means it’s time to get your networking groove on. Those attending HOW Design Live, for example, will have countless opportunities to mix and mingle with their industry peers. In fact, The Creative Group will be hosting the HOW Design Networking Kickoff on Friday, June 24, where in-house creatives, designers and freelancers can participate in a fun icebreaker game and get revved up for the HOW Design Live opening keynote.

If striking up conversations with strangers doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s an important skill to develop. Connecting with professionals outside your typical circle can translate to career success in terms of new business leads and valuable advice. And the good news is that networking improves with practice.

Here are four tips to help maximize your hobnobbing efforts this summer:

Find opportunities that suit you. You don’t have to attend rowdy happy hours or formal business events to make meaningful connections. If you’re on the quieter side, consider signing up for breakfast roundtables or local user groups where you can engage in more intimate conversations.

  1. M.E.B.E. This stands for Meet. Engage. Business card. Exit. It’s an easy way to remember the flow of an effective networking conversation. Approach someone standing alone or a group of three or more (you don’t want to interrupt a dialogue between two people) and engage your contact for a few minutes to avoid dominating his or her time. As the conversation winds down, exchange business cards, politely excuse yourself and move on.
  2. Keep in touch. It’s pointless to forge numerous relationships only to let them fade away. Stay connected with those you meet by sending monthly emails or making calls to old colleagues to catch up. Send pertinent articles or information to individuals who you know would be interested, even if the material is not directly related to work. (For example, a fellow in-house designer who is a fan of a local band would appreciate an alert if they’re giving a free concert in the area.)
  3. Recommend others. If you meet other in-house designers who have professional websites, ask them to link to your homepage and offer to return the favor. You can even direct business their way when you’re too busy or have the wrong skills for a particular project. Chances are, they’ll do the same for you.

Whether you attend one conference or several in the coming months, make the most of your efforts. Focus your attention on the task at hand, follow up and keep the communication flowing – and you’ll be on your way to building bonds that last.

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at