Professional conferences revolve around a common interest. Although the common interest is the reason for the gathering, so much more than the sharing of content and ideas can happen.
For many years, up until last year, I hosted "The Very Unofficial." The goal for this event was to bring researchers, speakers and people who seemed to me to have a high level of passion in the profession together. More than anything, I wanted the evening to spark connections between people so that together something special would be the outcome - even if the special happened to become reality years later.
PTPubNight has the same mission: creating relationships and connections between those in our profession. It really isn't about clinking glasses and drinking. Okay, that is fun, but the real special is when you develop a professional relationship with a colleague. The big conference PTPubNights are huge and are an opportunity to meet others. You may or may not really get to know someone while at the event. To really create a relationship will require work and staying in touch. The smaller, local PTPubNights will be more quaint and provide time for you to really connect with those in your local area.
For those of you not really sure about PTPubNight and connecting and creating relationships, I'd like you to think of what I've experience meeting individuals over drinks. You'd never be reading anything I write or create for FOTO. It was through an introduction at a social event, combined with staying in touch with Al that truly led to me being a part fo the FOTO family. Remember when I said the "special" may happen years later? In this case, I believe it was about 4 years later. It takes time to develop a really good relationship.
Another year during a social event during CSM, I was introduced to Rachael Lowe over at Physiopedia. Rachael and I stayed in touch over the years. After about 2 or 3 years, Rachael asked if I'd be willing to be a part of the Physiopedia team. Professional, global relationships are possible - again, if you are willing to take the time to not only connect, but also focus on creating a relationship.
So, how does this happen? Or how can you make it happen?
My first advice is that not every person you meet should or will fall into a category of someone of which you want some type of working relationship. I hate to say swipe right or swipe left, but yeah... you will mentally do that kind of thing at conferences. I'll be the first to say that it is okay to do that... We don't have relationships with every single person we meet, so I wouldn't expect that professionally.
My next advice is to really, really try to engage in a discussion that doesn't completely revolve around you. Please do take time to honestly hear what a person you meet has to say. How can you decide if there is something special that can come from connecting with someone if you don't listen? At the same time, you do need to share a bit about yourself. Relationships are a two-way street, so you do have to share, just don't overshare.
My last advice is to care. When I say care... I mean you connected with that person and hopefully you learned something that interested that person. If you really care, you'll think of that person whenever you see something revolving around that person's topic of interest. More importantly than just thinking of that person, reach out to them - send a text with the information or an email.
Cheers to tonight and the beginning of a fantastic conference. What I wish for each of you: that you connect with someone in a professional way and begin to foster a special relationship in which the final result is something that impacts our profession. If you were unaware of PTPubNight, you can learn more here. For those of you attending the Combined Sections Meeting, you can attend the FREE PTPubNight Thursday night at 6 p.m. at World of Beer. I hear there is also some free swag.