#COT2017 Be brave: 5 tips for networking as a student 

20170619_163148Day one of #COT2017, from start to finish, has been full of networking opportunities. This can be a daunting challenge and an exciting opportunity for any delegate. As a student just beginning my studies this year, I have already experienced ‘imposter’ syndrome at conference, meaning feelings of inadequacy creep in when I think of a question or thinking if I engage in conversation, they’ll know I’m a fraud. We don’t want these feelings to hold us back in day two so here are some tips to get networking at conference:


1. Be brave

Following the student networking session yesterday, I took away the message that we need to continue to silence self-doubt as it creeps back and speak up more. Many commented that often the students had asked the question everyone was thinking in sessions and had more up to date knowledge in occupational therapy theory. Go for it!

2. Prepare your ‘get out of jail’ question

Many hold back from starting that conversation at conference due to the fear that the ‘banter’ might not flow freely or even worse, it could dry up into an awkward silence. My advice would be to have the same prepared question to come to your rescue in this situation, I call it my ‘get out of jail’ question. Having something to fall back on gives me reassurance to practice point number one. At the moment, I am asking: ‘What advice would you give to students?’

3. Networking with students is still networking

Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t get to give your ‘elevator pitch’ to Jennifer Creek. It is just as useful to network with other students. Share what you learnt or how you have found placement and be surprised at how much you’ll learn from each other. It’s cheesy but we are the Occupational Therapists of tomorrow and, well, next year!

4. Get interactive

Look out for the interactive sessions that give you an excuse to start conversations and network. I attended the lunchtime session yesterday that gave delegates the opportunity to chat to some of the key note speakers of the conference. Don’t miss out! I learnt just from being at the table and hearing what others had to say while contributing bits and pieces as much as I could.

5. Finally, follow up! 

Every session I have attended, the speaker has shared either their email or twitter handle. Plan over the next week to ask the questions you thought of afterwards, continue the conversations started, and as we were reminded of in the opening plenary, don’t forget to encourage speakers in their work and share how they have helped you, it can make someone’s day.

These are some personal tips that have worked for me. What have I missed? I’d love to hear your conference networking experience. Did you come to the conference with business cards ready to hand out or are you struggling to speak up? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter, using the handles @orlatheot and @otalk.

I’ll leave you with my new mantra I’ve been trying to live by:

‘Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.’

By Orla Hughes (@orlatheot)

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