Your abstract is accepted (woohoo!) and you are getting ready for the ARM conference in Baltimore in late June. You have your tickets, hotels, funding for conference travel, poster, and, for some, a new city to explore. However, one aspect that often takes a backseat is networking. Networking is an essential skill for doctoral students and academic conferences provide an excellent platform to practice yours! But networking is much more than meeting someone. It requires planning and preparation.

In this blog post, I’ll explore the importance of timely networking for doctoral students during conferences and offer practical tips to make the most out of these valuable networking opportunities. Essentially, consider this advice tailored for me – and you!

Prepare for Networking (Before the Conference)

Explore conference abstracts. The ARM conference agenda is published online. You can search for your topic, explore abstracts and talks, and make notes of researchers in your field. I personally note abstracts and researchers of interest in my OneNote. You can even review networking-related sessions at the conference by searching through that session type on the full online agenda.

Update (or create) your social media. Make time to update your professional social media accounts because it is valuable for networking (here’s a peer-reviewed paper on benefits of Twitter). Have another person review it. 

  • LinkedIn: Update your profile with these tips for Ph.D. students. Join relevant groups and learn to follow hashtags such as #ARM24. Also, learn how to use your personalized LinkedIn QR code for faster networking! If you do not have a profile, consider creating a LinkedIn with an academic focus. Attend ARM networking sessions precisely on Building your LinkedIn Presence on Sunday, June 30, 2024 from 8:15am to 9:00am.
  • X (formerly twitter): Follow journals, professional associations, colleagues, and influential people in your field and learn to 'tweet' as an academic.

Explore your university's student page. If your school provides a webpage for Ph.D. students, take time to update it with your recent publications and your newly accepted abstract(s) for the 2024 ARM. 

Bring business cards. These may feel outdated since everyone carries mini-computers (aka smartphones) in their pockets, but they still have value. Imagine someone walking by your poster. If you are busy talking to others, you can quickly say hi and hand out your card. Here are some tips on contents for your student card. Make sure to include your email, website, your LinkedIn QR code, and any other social media accounts. 

Connect on social media. With your recently updated professional social media accounts, reach out to researchers and students that you want to meet at the conference. Connect on LinkedIn. Follow on X. Send an email. Consider finding a time to meet one-on-one for coffee or tea.

Create a process for networking. Just like we create an agenda for a meeting, we also need an agenda for networking meetings. Years ago, someone I worked with recommended The 20-Minute Networking Meeting book written by Marcia Ballinger and Nathan Perez. There is even a graduate edition, yay! In short, a networking meeting should be a process with five steps: 1) the great first impression, 2) the great overview, 3) the great discussion, 4) the great ending, and 5) the great follow-up. Pick a few people that you absolutely want to meet at the conference and write out the contents for each of the five steps. I find these really helpful!

Prepare elevator pitches. Craft a concise and engaging elevator pitch that highlights your research interests, current projects, and career aspirations. Be prepared to share this information confidently when introducing yourself to fellow attendees.

At the Conference

Networking is about building meaningful relationships that can benefit your academic and professional journey in the long run. Networking can facilitate collaborative opportunities, lead to mentorship and guidance, and (obviously) career advancement. 

Attend networking events. Take advantage of networking events, receptions, and social gatherings organized as part of the conference. These informal settings provide opportunities for casual conversations and building relationships in a relaxed environment. If you are a planner, then schedule events in your calendar as a backup!

  • Meet the Experts Student Breakfast 
    Sunday, June 30, 2024
    7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
  • Coffee & Conversation with Commonwealth Fund Medicare Program
    Sunday, June 30, 2024
    7:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.
  • Contract Research Organization Job Fair 
    Monday, July 1, 2024 
    12:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
  • Publish and Flourish: Meet the Editors
    Tuesday, July 2, 2024
    9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
  • Health Economics Interest Group Networking Session
    Tuesday, July 2, 2024 
    8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Be approachable and curious. Approach networking with an open mind and a genuine interest in learning from others. Be approachable, smile, and initiate conversations with fellow attendees. Ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to their responses.

Remember, the relationships you cultivate today can shape your academic journey for years to come, so seize every networking opportunity with enthusiasm and intentionality. See you in Baltimore this June 29-July 2!

Roshani Dahal, M.P.H.

Ph.D. Student - University of Minnesota School of Public Health

Roshani (Rosh) Dahal (she/her/hers) is currently pursuing a PhD in Health Services Research, Policy, and Admin... Read Bio

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