One very easy and less painful way to meet people is during the poster sessions. There are lots of people standing by their posters expecting (hoping) others will approach them. It’s very awkward for poster presenters to stand there waiting for someone to approach. So they will often be relieved when someone comes along and starts up a conversation. You also have lots of opportunities to meet many people – especially people doing work in your field. However, I’ve found it’s sometimes easier to talk to people who work on topics I know little about. By confiding to the poster presenter that you don’t know anything about their field puts them at ease. Students and young scientists are especially afraid some expert is going to come along and ask them a question they can’t answer or will disparage their work. So, they will be especially open to someone who knows little about their topic. Ask them to explain their work to you (you can say you’ve always been fascinated with the topic, but that it is outside your field). By doing so, you put them into the role of expert and you in the role of interested listener. Few people can resist an opportunity to be looked upon as the more knowledgeable in a conversation.
The rest of her series on self-promotion is wonderful, useful stuff. Check it out. Start with To Brag or Not to Brag, and carry through the rest of the September posts, and continuing through October.
Photo by TeodoraS on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.