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Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

By Jason Hamman

There are many reasons why students should attend conferences: to learn about new technologies from leading scientists, present original research, participate in professional development opportunities, etc. Perhaps one of the best (and sometimes forgotten) reasons is to network.

Networking is facilitated by first making a good impression. Have a brief one-minute speech prepared for making new contacts. It should include who you are, where you're from, and two or three of your main interests or responsibilities. Practice this speech with a friend or in front of a mirror until you feel comfortable enough to introduce yourself to potential employers or clients. But what happens next? You both may share a common interest and start a conversation or, more likely, you will need to leave for another event. In brief interactions one thing is certain, if they don't have anything to remember you by, the chances that you have made a meaningful connection are slim.
Business cards and a good introduction are valuable tools at conferences.
In the professional world, business cards and face to face interactions are the best tools for making new contacts at conferences. Business cards signify your interest in learning more about a company and building a relationship with them. Bring enough business cards to a conference for 25-35 introductions; they are a great way to help ensure a more successful conference experience.

Creating your own business card is easier than you may think and designs can be simple or elaborate. Business cards should include your name, title (student, researcher, etc), where you work/study, and contact information. Including a personal web address on the card is acceptable only if the site promotes your professional interests/studies and accomplishments.

A number of online resources are available to help you create the perfect card for your needs and office supply stores often carry printable business card stock.

How to Design Business Cards (About.com)

Adobe Photoshop Templates and Tutorials

Remember, if you give a business card to someone, there is an excellent chance that you will get theirs in return. Happy networking!

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