Small talk may seem insignificant, but it can be a valuable tool for networking at a school communicator’s conference. As a school public relations or marketing specialist, attending a conference is an excellent opportunity to meet and connect with colleagues in the education industry.
Networking Tips for School Communicator’s Conferences
Here are some tips to help you engage in small talk at the conference:
1. Be Prepared
Being prepared before the conference is crucial in making the most of your networking opportunities. Researching the attendees and speakers beforehand can give you an idea of who you may meet and what topics may be of interest to them.
Here are a few ways to research the attendees and speakers:
- Check the conference website: Many conferences will have a list of attendees and speakers on their website. This information can give you an idea of who will be at the conference and what their professional background is.
- Use social media: LinkedIn is a great resource for researching attendees and speakers. You can search for people who are attending the conference, see their professional background, and even reach out to them before the conference to introduce yourself.
- Look for common ground: Look for shared interests or experiences. It could be a school or district, a topic of interest, or an event they have attended. This can be a great conversation starter, and can help you make a connection with someone.
By researching the attendees and speakers beforehand, you can come prepared with a list of people you would like to meet and specific topics of conversation. This will help you initiate conversations, make connections, and get the most out of your conference experience.
Additionally, you can also prepare a brief professional pitch, which will help you introduce yourself quickly and effectively. It should be a short statement that highlights your professional background and the work you do. This will make it easier for you to initiate a conversation with someone you have never met before.
2. Be Confident
Confidence is key when engaging in small talk, as it can help to put others at ease and make conversations flow more naturally.
Here are a few ways to project confidence during small talk:
- Smile: A smile is a universal sign of friendliness and approachability. A genuine smile can help to put others at ease and make them more willing to engage in conversation.
- Make eye contact: Making eye contact is an important aspect of nonverbal communication. It shows that you are paying attention and engaged in the conversation.
- Speak clearly: Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Speak up and be heard, but don’t speak too loudly or too softly. Remember to breathe deeply and speak from your diaphragm to project your voice.
- Be positive and enthusiastic: Being positive and enthusiastic is contagious. Show interest in the other person, and they are more likely to show interest in you.
- Be open and responsive: Listen attentively and respond to what others say, this will keep the conversation flowing and show that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
- Use appropriate body language: Stand tall, make open gestures, and maintain good posture. This can help to project confidence and make you appear more approachable.
By projecting confidence during small talk, you can make a positive impression, build connections, and increase your chances of making valuable connections at the conference.
3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Asking open-ended questions can be a valuable tool for engaging in small talk and building connections. Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, they encourage the other person to share more about themselves and their experiences.
Here are a few examples of open-ended questions:
- Can you tell me more about your job/position?
- What are your thoughts on the current trends in education?
- Can you share about a recent project you worked on?
- How do you balance work and personal life?
Asking open-ended questions allows the other person to share more about themselves and their experiences. It can also help to steer the conversation in a more interesting direction, and can open the door for further discussion on a topic. Additionally, it also shows that you are genuinely interested in the other person and their experiences.
It’s also important to be aware of the context, the person’s background and the event you are at. Avoid asking too personal or sensitive questions, and be mindful of the time and place. The goal is to start a natural and comfortable conversation.
By asking open-ended questions, you can build deeper connections with others, learn more about their experiences and perspectives, and make the most of your time at the conference.
4. Listen Actively
Active listening is an essential skill for engaging in small talk and building connections. It means not just hearing the words but also paying attention to the person’s body language, tone of voice, and nonverbal cues. This can help you understand the context of the conversation and respond appropriately.
Here are a few ways to practice active listening:
- Give your full attention: Remove any distractions and focus on the person you are talking to. Avoid multitasking or thinking about something else while they are speaking.
- Acknowledge what they are saying: Respond to what the other person is saying by nodding, making eye contact, and providing verbal cues such as “I see,” “I understand,” or “That’s interesting.”
- Read between the lines: Listen to not only the words but also the tone of voice and nonverbal cues. This can help you understand the context of the conversation and respond appropriately.
- Show that you are listening: Reflect on what the person has said, by summarizing or paraphrasing what they said, and then ask a follow-up question. This will show that you are paying attention and that you are interested in what they have to say.
- Avoid interrupting: Let the person finish speaking before responding. Interrupting can make the other person feel unheard and can break the flow of the conversation.
By actively listening, you can show the other person that you are engaged and interested in what they have to say. This can help to build trust and create a more comfortable and natural conversation. Additionally, it can also help you to understand the other person’s perspective and build deeper connections.
5. Find Common Ground
Finding common ground is an essential aspect of building connections and engaging in small talk. It means looking for shared interests or experiences that can serve as a starting point for a conversation.
Here are a few ways to find common ground:
- Ask about their background: Ask about the person’s job, position, school or district, and professional background. This can give you an idea of their interests and experiences and help you find common ground.
- Talk about the conference: The conference can be a great way to find common ground. Ask the person what sessions they have attended, what they found most interesting or valuable and if they have any takeaways.
- Look for shared interests: If you find out that the person has an interest that aligns with yours, such as a hobby, passion, or a current project, use that as a conversation starter.
- Share your own experiences: Share your own experiences and interests. The other person may have had similar experiences or may be interested in what you have to say.
- Listen actively: As you listen to the person you are speaking with, look for common ground. They may mention an interest or experience that you can build a conversation around.
- Be open-minded: Be open to new ideas and perspectives, as well as be open to learning about something new. You may find something interesting that you didn’t know about.
By finding common ground, you can create a more comfortable and natural conversation, build deeper connections, and increase your chances of making valuable connections at the conference. This can also lead to potential collaborations or partnerships in the future.
6. Be Open to New Ideas
Being open to new ideas is an essential aspect of attending a conference and engaging in small talk. Attending a conference is an opportunity to learn and be exposed to new ideas and perspectives.
Here are a few ways to be open to new ideas:
- Be curious: Come with an open mind, be curious about what the conference has to offer, and be open to learning from others.
- Listen actively: Listen to the speakers, other attendees and be attentive to what is being said. Pay attention to the different perspectives and ideas being shared.
- Ask questions: If you don’t understand something or want to know more, ask questions. It will not only show that you are interested but also help you learn more about the topic.
- Take note of new ideas: Write down any new ideas or insights that you come across. This will help you to remember them later and reflect on them.
- Network with people with different backgrounds: Attendees come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. Engage in conversations with people who have different experiences than you. This will expose you to new ideas and perspectives.
- Follow-up: After the conference, follow-up with the people you met and continue the conversation about the new ideas and insights you discussed.
By being open to new ideas, you can gain valuable insights, broaden your perspective and enhance your professional development. Additionally, it may also lead to new opportunities, collaborations, and partnerships in the future. Remember, you are at the conference to learn and grow, be open to new ideas and perspectives.
Following up after a conference is an essential step in building connections and making the most of your networking opportunities. By reaching out to the people you met, you can continue the conversation, build deeper connections and increase your chances of making valuable connections.
Here are a few ways to follow up after the conference:
- Send an email: Send an email to the people you met, introduce yourself and remind them of the conversation you had. Make sure to include your contact information, and ask if they would be willing to connect on LinkedIn or another professional platform.
- Connect on LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with other professionals in your industry. Once you have connected, make sure to send a personalized message and mention something specific about the conversation you had.
- Follow-up on specific topics: If you discussed a specific topic or project, follow-up on that topic and ask if they would be interested in discussing it further or if they have any updates.
- Offer help or resources: If you have any helpful resources or information that you think might be relevant to the person you met, offer to share them.
- Set up a meeting or call: If you live in the same area or have similar interests, set up a time to meet or have a call to discuss further.
By following up after the conference, you can continue the conversation, build deeper connections, and increase your chances of making valuable connections. Additionally, it can also lead to potential collaborations, partnerships, and mentorship opportunities in the future. Remember to always be professional, respectful and timely in your follow-up.
Conclusion: Small Talk
Remember, small talk is not just idle chitchat. It is a way to make connections, build relationships, and open doors for future opportunities. By being prepared, confident, and open-minded, you can make the most of your time at the conference.