AORN Blog - The Periop Life

How to Network at a Surgical Conference


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February 14, 2020

Networking is a skill and it can be nerve-wracking to break the ice with a nurse you just met. Try these 6 tips to warm up your networking skills ahead of the conference.

Nervous to network? You aren’t alone. But if you ask perioperative nurses about some of their most impactful experiences at an AORN conference, there’s a good chance it will be the nurses they met years ago and still talk to. Networking gives you new ideas for your practice, presents job leads, and offers the chance to connect with your nursing profession beyond your daily work environment.

Veteran nurses will also tell you it’s smart to plan ahead for successful networking. With only 30+ days left until AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo 2020 in Anaheim, here are six tips to build your networking plan now:

  1. Know who you want to talk to
  2. In this gathering of 5,000 nurses, you have ample opportunity to plan for which nurses you want to connect with. Do you have your eye on a new hospital to transfer to? Maybe you want to catch an AORN Journal author to pick their brain about a process improvement project you read about? Choose a handful of networking prospects to help you plan your networking goals for the meeting.
  1. Pre-network
  2. Sending an email to request a meeting and introduce yourself can be a great way to break the ice and feel ready to jump into a conversation when you see that person at the conference. A quick internet search will likely help you find an email address. Or let AORN help with making virtual connections now through the conference app available as soon as you register to attend.
  1. Practice your elevator speech
  2. Knowing what you will say and practicing in the mirror at home can help you appear confident when talking to someone new, even if your nerves try to get the better of you. Make sure to keep an intro short and lead with a question to get info you can take back with you. To help you engage your fellow attendees, here are a few conversation starters to keep in mind: “Where do you work?” “What do you do?” or “Is this your first-time attending the conference?”
  1. Be ready to listen
  2. Sometimes a nervous networker can be so focused on what to say that they forget to listen. Remember … the key to networking is being your true self and making a lasting impression. Pay attention to your body language and give anyone you talk to your undivided attention so they earn your respect and so you remember what they say.
  1. Prepare for networking anywhere
  2. Heading to the largest gathering of periop nurses in the world means you will likely run into a fellow attendee in the airport, in the hotel elevator (hence the term “elevator speech,”) or after the conference at a nearby restaurant—so always be networking-ready. That means always being ready with your business card, dressing appropriately, wearing your conference badge right side forward, and presenting your best self throughout your trip.
  1. Take notes
  2. Whether it’s a cocktail napkin or organized reminders in your phone, make sure you take clear notes with contact info for follow-up after the meeting. Don’t let too much time pass before reconnecting with someone you met to build a relationship throughout the year and to plan your next face-to-face meet up at AORN 2021 in Orlando!

Check out these ways to network at the conference.

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