How speed networking could work at your next virtual conference

With events going digital, professional training has become increasingly convenient and accessible. While getting the latest scientific research developments from the comfort of your home has never been so easy, sitting alone in front of a screen significantly diminishes the chances of meeting new people and collaborators – a benefit of on-site meetings that is considered one of their most important assets.

Most meeting organisers realise that and offer various networking opportunities and socialising incentives as part of the programme. One of the methods we have implemented to facilitate social interaction at our onsite as well as virtual conferences is the so-called speed networking – a networking session where people swap conversational partners every 5 minutes with the aim to meet as many people as possible and exchange information about their research or the project they are currently working on. The session is normally scheduled  for the first day of the conference so that participants can later go back to the people they have met during the speed networking session and continue the discussion.

What should you talk about during the speed networking?

5 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, so it is important that you focus on the essentials. Start by introducing yourself then go into more detail. Are you looking for collaborators? Or maybe a new job or a postdoc position?

How can you do that in just 5 minutes?

  • Prepare a 20 second blurb about yourself
  • Keep aware of the time factor – there should be a countdown on your screen
  • Stick to the vitals
  • Make sure to take notes next to their name so that you can later go back to them for reference
  • Most importantly, have fun and relax! 🙂

What if you don’t finish your conversation within the allocated time slot?

  • Before the time is up, make sure you suggest the next step
  • Message them directly on the available discussion platform with a suggestion for a follow-up meeting
  • After the meeting, be sure to e-mail them with a suggestion for further exchange.

Why not check out our list of upcoming virtual events to see where you can try out your speed networking skills!


For tips on how to do speed networking at onsite events, check out this video.

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6 ways to enhance your scientific career with networking and informational interviews

Do you want to know how networking and informational interviews can enhance your scientific career? Are you unsure of whether to stay in academia or not? Find out how to use your contacts and professional networking sites to find and obtain the right job for you.

  1. Use your personal contacts

Use existing contacts to get first hand, tailored information from people who’ve made the transition into different types of careers. You might also be a member of different networks such as an alumni association or a scientific society where you can find people to talk to about their careers, or perhaps you are attending a conference where you can speak to people directly about their experiences.

  1. Don’t be afraid of professional networking sites

Make the most of what’s on offer, be it LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Xing or other local sites. Search for people who have similar skills or backgrounds as you, contact them and ask if they’d be willing to talk to you about their career. Join groups on these sites to talk to people in similar fields as you are in or want to get into.

  1. Set up some “informational interviews”

An informational interview is an informal discussion about careers where you can get advice and information – it is not something that will lead to a job but should rather be a source of inspiration and advice. Get in touch with the people who might be able to offer you some sound advice, and ask if they can spare 20 minutes for you to pick their brains.

  1. Prepare for your informal interview

One way to structure these informational interviews is to use REVEAL*:

  • Recap – Who are you and why would you like to talk to this person
  • Explore – Prepare questions to help you explore the career area, role and sector
  • Vision – Follow up with more detailed questions about the trends for the field, and where your career could head in the longer term
  • Entry Routes – How did the person you’re talking to get into the role? Are there different routes to getting in?
  • Action Points – What do you need to do to get these kinds of roles? Can also ask for feedback on your CV
  • Links – Can the person recommend any other resources to you?
  1. Realistically assess your skills, values and interests

Scientists often struggle with working out what kinds of jobs they are best suited to. Look in depth at your skills, values and interests. Use this information to filter your career research. You can, for example, look for people with a similar skill set on LinkedIn and see what kinds of roles they have and gain some inspiration for what you might be interested in.

  1. Research the available career possibilities

There are a large variety of options out there for scientists who don’t want to stay on the academic career path. In addition to research in pharma, biotechs and startups there are also a variety of roles where you can use your scientific knowledge, understanding of the research process or data analysis skills. These roles often support scientific research, communicate research findings more broadly, or help translate research into real life applications.

Resources

Original video with Rachel Graf, EIPOD Career Advisor, EMBL Heidelberg

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