Up Your Networking Game with a Conference Dine-Around

The first ADRP International Conference I attended was in Memphis three years ago. The conference was incredibly informative to me, and I typed an abundant amount of notes at every session.

I was rather green then and just learning to flex my networking muscles. I'm not the type to shake everyone’s hand and offer my business card, so I felt a bit slow at meeting people. However, I did need to find dinner in the evening, and I really didn’t know anything about the city, so I signed up for the dine-arounds and picked a restaurant that look interesting.

I met a group of people in the lobby of the hotel, and we walked a few blocks together to a BBQ restaurant. This was probably the most beneficial part of the whole conference for me. You can’t help but feel a connection with people when you’re sharing several baskets of ribs and fries. But aside from that, we went around the table and shared stories of some of our biggest challenges in our work, lessons learned, and proudest moments.

I walked away from this dinner with more mental notes than what I had typed during the day. During the conference, I had attended all the sessions on how to establish an endowment reporting program, but it’s an entirely different conversation altogether to ask ten people with BBQ sauce on their fingers, “What does your endowment reporting program look like?” I came away with several concrete ideas to put into place as soon as I made it back home!

As we walked back to the hotel, we did exchange business cards. (I may not hand them out to everybody, but I still keep them handy.) A week later, after I was able to formulate all of my new knowledge into concrete goals, I emailed my new friends and asked if they wouldn’t mind sharing some samples of their materials with me. And this was the best take-away that I brought home from the conference.

I may not be great at meeting new people, but who isn’t great at eating dinner? So whether you are a networking extraordinaire or a bit more reserved, take the time to sign up for one of the dine-around options, eat tasty food, and learn through a more personal route.

Amanda Barbeau
Associate Director of Stewardship
Washington University in St. Louis

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