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Make the Most of Your NAADA Conference Experience

Friday, May 30, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Without networking, I’m not sure where I’d be today. As a college freshman, I listened to Susan Grebner share about her job in agricultural communications at a career day at Black Hawk College East Campus. I immediately knew she was someone I needed to meet. But for this small-town Iowa girl, mustering up the nerve to meet Susan afterwards was a little scary.

However, that networking experience went on to develop into a mentoring relationship that helped me go on to find exciting internships and my future career (that didn’t even exist when I was a freshman in college). Before coming to the University of Illinois in December 2009, I spent nearly 10 years as the Director of Junior Activities for the National Swine Registry. One of my favorite parts of that job was organizing our youth leadership conferences and working with our junior board of directors.

My best advice for these youth is my best advice to you as you prepare to attend a great NAADA conference next month at Penn State. Get out there and network. You have to make the first move – you can’t expect others to network for you.

I attended my first NAADA Conference a few years ago and was fortunate to meet Jillian Stevenson and Kristin Smarr at the First Timers Meeting. Networking with them opened doors and not only helped me advance into my current position at the University of Illinois, but also helped me develop my skillset further as a member of the NAADA Board.

If you are new to NAADA or haven’t attended a conference in a while, there are many great opportunities to network, especially on Tuesday night. The First Timers Meeting will be held from 4:15-5 connecting our first-time attendees with NAADA members who have been attending the conference for a while. This will be followed by the opening Track Networking Sessions from 5 to 5:30. The Welcome Reception will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Whether this will be your first NAADA or your 14th, here are a few tips to help make networking at NAADA even more meaningful and productive this year.

1. Be early. Showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy than getting there late. You'll notice that it's calmer and quieter. It's easier to find other people who don't have a group to visit with yet. If possible, take a look at the list of attendees coming to the event in advance so you can strategize who you would like to get to know.

2. Start the conversation. Don't wait around the outside of the room for someone to approach you. Walk up to a person or a group and get the conversation started by asking to join them. And then listen. It’s the best way to get to know a person.

3. Share your passion. Leave a lasting impression by telling stories that help reveal your character and personality. Talk about what you enjoy. Then, encourage other people to share their passion, creating a memorable two-way conversation.

4. Don't steal the show. The most successful networkers are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Be a conversationalist, not a talker.

5. Follow up. Networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you've had a great exchange, ask the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you're interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you.

See you in June!
Jennifer Shike
University of Illinois College of ACES
Director for Communications and Marketing
NAADA Communications Track Representative


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