The LERN Annual Conference in San Francisco is a little more than a month away and if you're registered, you're a little more than a month from joining more than 800 of your colleagues from across the U.S. and Canada.
(If you haven't registered for the conference yet, there's still time. Registrations are soaring and our room block at the Hyatt is full for the nights of Nov. 20 and 24, but there are a lot of great, nearby accomodations. Here is our most recent overflow hotel information.)
While the sessions and speakers are going to deliver a mountain of new information and knowledge, you can get even more out of the conference by tapping into the knowledge of your peers.
Here are the best ways to break the ice, make connections and network like a pro:
- Yes, this is a work-related event, but you don't have to dive right in with work-related questions right off the bat. Open the conversation with something fun and light, such as: What do you for fun outside of work? Have you ever been to San Francisco? If yes, what's the best thing you've seen? If not, what are you most excited to see?
- The LERN Annual Conference is centered around lifelong learning and continuing education, but it draws people from a number of industries such as community and technical colleges, professional associations, community education programs, parks and recreation departments and many others. No matter what industry you're coming from, it's likely you can learn a lot from someone coming from a different industry, so don't limit your discussions to be with people only from your same group. Some icebreakers: What made you pick this profession/industry? What did you do before you joined X?
- Don't be afraid to come right out and ask for help. Hearing someone say, "I'd love your opinion on this project," is not only flattering to the recipient but it also gets their wheels spinning in a new way. If you do ask someone for their help or opinion, don't let the connection end with the conference. Get their contact information and, at the very least, connect on LinkedIn and send them a follow-up "Thank you very much." Let the person know how you plan to use their advice, and later, how it worked out.
- Just like asking someone for help, asking where they turn for answers or look for ideas is a great way to make a connection and it lets the person know you value their opinion. You never know what tips they might have to make your job easier. They might also give you insight on how to use a certain tool in a new way.
- If you happen to connect with someone you could actually collaborate with, don't be afraid to say "Let's make this happen." Today, you don't have to be in the same community or even the same state to collaborate on projects, so start thinking outside the box when it comes to what makes a win-win relationship.