(Net)-Working the Conference: The Name-Tag Experiment
I’m looking for a job! Did you know?
No, of course not, it’s not like I am wearing a sign around my neck that says so, do I? Well, actually… why not?
One of the most interesting, benefitting and important things to do at conferences is definitely networking! From my experience, panels may or may not satisfy your quest for knowledge, but networking is a safe bet to spend an exciting conference!
So for last weekend’s conference on the political in digital media in honor of Deutschlandfunk’s 50th birthday, I decided to take initiative. Thankfully, the selection of speakers and the audience it attracted made for a great opportunity to meet exciting and interesting people. So I chose quests:
The first thing to do was to research the speakers. I knew Paul Lewis from the Guardian would be there, whose amazing crowdsourcing approaches during the London riots I encountered researching for my thesis. I HAD to meet him and possibly ask him about some info on his HR department:
(I actually got to fulfill that quest and I’m very happy about that! Plus I got some helpful advice from Paul, thanks!)
I also found that media analyst Jan Schmidt from the Hans-Bredow Institute in Hamburg would be there. I had talked to him about one of his projects late last year and definitely wanted to get some updates on the research – and let him know that I decided for practical journalism instead of academic research.
(quest 2: check!)
I wanted people to find me and talk to me about jobs and the job market in general. But how could I do that?
I literally decided to wear “the sign”. Registering for the conference, I wrote “looking for an employer” in the “company/institution” field. That would attract people’s attention on my name tag, I thought! (It did!)
I actually went far beyond my initial two quests and initiated conversation with many of the speakers, exchanging contact information as well as chats about the media and topics around the conference. a big CHECK on those quests!
For the name-tag experiment:
Did it instantly bring me a job? No, it didn’t.
BUT: for (1), a lot of people asked me whether it worked. I had at a hand full of conversations starting with the sentence: “Does that work?” While these people did not have anything for me, I am sure they will remember our conversations and let me know if something comes up!
Also (2): It gave me an agenda at the conference that made me concentrate on networking. While I used to sit through panels even when they were boring, the tag worked as a reminder that there is other good at a conference
And finally (3): It stuck out! And it made people laugh! Especially the panelists I talked to laughed or smiled when they saw the sign. With a bit of luck, that will help them to also remember my face.
While it takes a bit of courage to put yourself out in the open and although it did not get me immediate job offers, I consider the tag experiment a success! (Actually, I did get one offer, but I had to basically explain internet culture to the lady. I didn’t even decline, I just simply couldn’t take her “offer” seriously even if it was one).
Sticking out at least a little bit from the crowd made networking the conference easier for me. Now, I am looking forward to the follow-up period and I am curious to see what contacts will continue and might lead to more interesting conversations, or even fruitful cooperation!
Apart from the networking, the conference had many interesting topics and I was busy tweeting about them as the Twitter statistics show (4th!) , but some of those will have to be delayed for later posts