Throw a Networking Event

The convention ideas roundup is here.

When conventions focus on career events, its usually panels, workshops and demos.  This is and should be the norm, since these are the things people want and need.  I'd suggest conventions consider one addition to all of this.

A professional networking event.

Take an hour for people interested in going pro and give them a place to talk, exchange cards, and find out more about careers from each other.  INvite people from the professional panels you do run.  Have handouts and documents from recruiters, local businesses, etc.  For that matter, see if a local – or national – job board or service would want to sponsor it (oh, I'd love to see sponsor a geek networking event).

I confess it would be challenging – you'd probably need some icebreakers, and it may take a year or two to really reach a good self-perpetuating pace – but I think it's a worthy experiment.  People network at conventions anyway, adding professional networking to the mix would be a good goal to have.

The benefits I see:

  • It's another social event.  In general, I'm all for those.
  • It would let fans connect on a different level than the usually do – one that benefits them professionally.
  • Gathering your "pro panel" speakers would let them network with each other and further talk to and inform attendees.
  • It's a way to involve recruiters and colleges if you invite them as I mentioned previously.
  • Done right, it could be an event that grows and helps promote the convention.
  • It acts as a foundation for future professional events.

Again, this is more a theory of mine – but if anyone wants to try it out I'd be happy to lend some suggestions . . .

– Steven Savage

Convention Idea: Go Local!

More on my ideas on helping cons appeal to progeeks and profans.  Previous articles are: here, here, and here.

In my musings, speculations, and ideas on ways to add more professional and career-building events to conventions, I've talked about guests that people can invite to conventions.  I want to talk about something that's often missed.

Local guests from local businesses.

Read more

Convention Idea: SPECIFIC Career Tracks

Continuing my series on ways conventions can provide more career-oriented events for attendees, let's take a look at specific career tracks.  You can find earlier posts on the subject here and here.

I've mentioned career tracks earlier, but want to focus on the idea of the specific career track.

Most implementations I've seen of this take several panels/workshops related to a particular career or skill, and ensure they take place in one location at different times.  This allows people to attend all or most of them, since they don't conflict with each other, and are easy to locate since they're in the same location.

This doesn't work for every event, and is probably best targeted for ones specific audience: a voice acting and/or animation track for an anime con, a writing track for a Science Fiction convention, etc.  Only large conventions could have the time, space, and need to do a large amount of tracks.

Targeting career tracks brings in several advantages and possible techniques:
* You reach a specific audience of interest, and maximize attendance while minimizing cost.
* You can "rank" the events/workshops/panels by experience of attendees – thus do the more introductory panels earlier and the more "senior" panels later.  This allows people to attend events fitting their experience level, or attend events in order, learning things from the basics to deeper knowledge.
* You minimize cleanup and equipment for events – you'll at least know what cleanup to expect, and can leave media equipment in the same room.
* You can "re use" guests/panelists and allow them to speak on multiple panels, leveraging their knowledge better.
* This can easily become a yearly event at the convention, constantly improved and tweaked.
* It's a reputation-builder – you show specific career support.

Specific career tracks are something I'd pay attention to convention-wise.  I think for many conventions they're just the prescription to maximize panels that people will want to attend, and build something long-term to educate attendees.

– Steven Savage