ACUHO-I and its associated regional conferences (NEACUHO, MACUHO, SEAHO, GLACUHO, UMR-ACUHO, SWACUHO, AIMHO, NWACUHO, and WACUHO) provide valuable opportunities for networking and establishing connections with other housing and residence life professionals. If you want to network, but aren’t sure how to begin, we’ve got some tips to help you get the most out of your conference experience.
1. Set Clear Networking Goals
Before attending the conference, define your networking goals. Determine the type of connections you want to make, whether it’s meeting specific individuals, finding potential collaborators, or expanding your professional network. Perhaps you’re interested in working at a specific school? Or maybe there is a researcher or faculty member you want to meet? Is there a vendor who’s product you’re interested in? Do you want to meet other professionals who hold similar identities as yourself? Having clear goals will help you focus your networking efforts.
2. Research and Plan Ahead
Take the time to research the conference schedule, speakers, and attendees in advance. Identify individuals or organizations you would like to connect with and learn more about their work. Some of the ACUHO organizations have specific sub-groups based on identity or interest. Plan your schedule accordingly to maximize your chances of meeting the people you want during the conference.
3. Engage in Conversations
Actively engage in conversations with fellow attendees. This could be a person you’re sitting next to while waiting for a session to begin, or a person sitting at your table at lunch. Approach people with a friendly and professional demeanor. Start with simple introductions and ask open-ended questions to initiate meaningful discussions. Show genuine interest in others and actively listen to what they have to say. Don’t forget to exchange contacts, too!
4. Attend Networking Events
Make use of dedicated networking events or sessions offered by the conference. These may include social gatherings, receptions, or meet-and-greet sessions. Participate in these events to interact with a diverse range of professionals in a more relaxed and informal setting. Regional ACUHO conferences are particularly great for this as they are often more “human sized” than some of the national and international conferences.
5. Utilize Social Media
Leverage social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and use conference-specific hashtags to connect with attendees before, during, and after the conference. Engage in discussions, share insights, and arrange meet-ups or coffee meetings with individuals you’d like to connect with. There may even be individuals you’ve only ever met online that you’d like to get to know in person.
6. Volunteer or Present at the Conference
Consider volunteering or presenting at the conference, as these roles provide increased visibility and opportunities to connect with other attendees. Presenting a session or serving as a panelist can position you as an expert in your field and attract like-minded professionals to engage with you. Conferences are always in need of volunteers. Sometimes you can sign up right at the conference itself.
7. Follow Up After the Conference
Networking doesn’t end when the conference concludes. Follow up with the individuals you connected with by sending personalized messages expressing your appreciation for meeting them. Cement the relationship by connecting with them on social media. Maintain contact with your new connections and explore potential collaborations or opportunities in the future.
8. Stay Engaged in Professional Committees
ACUHO-I and the regional ACUHOs often have numerous ways to stay involved after and between conferences. Joining a committee can be a primary way of doing this. Many regional organizations will have committees focused on conference planning, newsletters and blogs, professional development, and other topics. You can also connect with the organizations online though Facebook Groups and other methods.
Remember, networking is about building genuine relationships and fostering mutually beneficial connections. Be authentic, approachable, and willing to contribute to the professional community. By actively engaging in networking activities during conferences, you can expand your network, gain valuable insights, and open doors to new opportunities. The longer you stay in the field, the more important and useful these connections will become.