We are just days away from the start of our 2019 Annual Research Meeting (ARM)! The chance to meet with your peers and increase your professional network is almost here and now is the time to get ready for success. Just a few weeks ago, I hosted a Facebook live session on tips for effective networking at ARM. Long-time ARM attendees and first time attendees all agree on one thing: networking at ARM is one of the most beneficial aspects of attending the event and can provide a significant return on the investment of time, energy and expense. However, networking is also a challenging activity for many people – introverts and extroverts alike.
Last year, while training for a 40-mile organized bike ride through the five boroughs of New York City, I learned a valuable life lesson, which also applies to networking. I wanted tips and tricks on how to make hills easier and how I could make sitting on a bike seat a lot less painful (one can dream), so I searched YouTube and found two hilarious professional bike riders. Their advice, delivered with wit, humor and honesty, was simple, “Hills and inflexible bike seats are a reality of bike riding. Getting used to them is going to be hard, it will be uncomfortable and once you accept this truth, things will get a lot easier.”
This modest, yet profound teaching is how I view networking. At first, it is challenging and sometimes downright uncomfortable. Like anything new and different, sometimes it takes a few attempts to really feel comfortable. As with training for a 40-mile bike ride, preparation is key. I use the “power of threes” to get ready for conferences:
- Prepare ahead of time. First and foremost, before you arrive at ARM, identify the sessions you are most likely to attend. You can do this online or in the #ARM19 mobile app. Additionally, the ARM app has a list of all organizations in the exhibit hall. Lastly, make sure to pack your business cards so you can share contact information and keep in touch with the people you are meeting. This bit of preparation will provide you a base level of confidence and stability before ever setting foot in the Washington Convention Center and the Marriott Marquis.
- Create a goal list of people you would like to meet during ARM. This goal can be both broad and specific. For example, this can include a goal of meeting 3 people in your same line of research/work, 3 speakers who are working on a new aspect of the field you are interested in pursuing, and 3 exhibitors who conduct this work and could be potential employers. This is a total of 9 people, which could be spread out over the 2.5 day meeting. A key to successful networking is aiming for quality over quantity. A lot of times there is a misconception that talking to a person at the highest level in a company is going to be the most worthwhile connection. However, it could be that a person who is more “down in the weeds” could actually provide you with more specific and tailored feedback on the questions you have. They might also be in a better position to help you with your professional development and growth more effectively as they may be closer to those challenges themselves or have recently addressed similar issues.
- Arrive rested and ready to have fun! Networking and meeting new people can be fun. By setting yourself up and preparing (including getting a good night’s sleep) to have a great time and learn will set you up for success.
Another way to prepare for networking at ARM is to have an ‘entrance’ point into conversation. An entry point is a conversation starter used to build a connection. This will help you engage in a way that feels natural and authentic so you don’t sound rehearsed. Some examples based on engagement opportunities at this year’s ARM include:
- #ARM19Bingo. Attendees can pick up a Bingo card from the AcademyHealth booth, the Insights Policy table or download from the ARM Attendee Resource Center page.
- Badge ribbons. Attendees can select a ribbon to denote interest groups, AcademyHealth member or student status, Organizational Affiliate and more.
- The #ARM19 mobile app. Vote for your favorite poster and share your thoughts with other attendees. There is also a survey included in the mobile app about the AcademyHealth Strategic Plan. After taking the survey, chat with new associates about the future of the field, your concerns for the field, and about your individual professional roles and your career goals in HSR.
If you’re looking for a more content-related connection point, start by chatting with attendees in your chosen sessions. Ask them what brought them to the session and their own work. If you have recently read a publication or study by a session panelist or presenter, speak to them after the session and prepare questions in advance to ask.
Now that you have some tips and tricks to help navigate networking opportunities at this year’s annual meeting, you’re well on your way to maximizing this year’s event—and you are not alone! On day two of ARM, Monday, June 3rd we will be hosting a TweetUp at the AcademyHealth booth #101 in the Exhibit Hall at 11:15am. The TweetUp is an opportunity for attendees following #ARM19 on Twitter to come together for an in-person meeting opportunity. All attendees are welcome, from the most social media savvy to social media averse! The AcademyHealth team will be available at the booth during regular Exhibit Hall hours so feel free to stop by to chat with staff, pick up some free giveaways practice your entry points and potentially meet other attendees.