Conference Preparations and the Fear of “Networking”

It’s that time of year again. I’m getting ready to pack a small suitcase, (hopefully) board a train (or maybe a replacement bus service…) and head off to a conference, armed with a precious memory stick containing my all-important PowerPoint presentation.

I’m very likely to lose the memory stick en route (which is OK, because I’ll already have sent a copy to the conference organisers by email, and they tend to be less flaky than I am) and will arrive full of coffee and nerves, trying to persuade my reluctant brain to come up with useful opening conversational gambits to use during the dreaded “networking” sessions.

You may be one of those blessed with natural social ability, but for me the early stages of networking are always painful. The only way to get through them is to keep reminding myself just how useful they can be. This year, I am heading to London for my 3rd Valuing Nature conference, and while looking at the conference programme on their website I stumbled across a blog post I wrote about my first Valuing Nature event, which also took place in London – the Business Impact School in 2017.

In it I wrote that “perhaps the most valuable resource of all those provided by the Business Impact School was contact with other researchers, working in areas which were similar, but also in many ways very different to my own. I met people researching epigenetics, space weather and virtual reality, to name but a few, but the common thread was a desire to care for our planet and its people. Thank you all for a truly positive experience.”

It’s true. In many ways I fear networking at conferences, but once the initial awkward stages are over and I’ve begun to actually talk to people, I realise how lucky I am to be able to meet a diverse range of people with interests which differ from, yet overlap with my own. Bring on Valuing Nature 2019, and I’ll try very hard not to lose my memory stick.