AVM Conference 2020 – 21 & 22 October

AVM’s conference, by its members, for our profession

Update Tuesday 20 October: Conference joining instructions were sent out on Monday 19th October. Please check your inbox for details.

This year’s AVM conference will be taking place online, on Zoom, over two half-days, Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 October, 10:00 – 13:00.

The AVM conference is always a highlight in our year. Even though we say so ourselves we believe it is the premier event in the UK for volunteer managers, leaders and heads of volunteering. 

We always try to bring together some of the best speakers from our sector, people who are at the forefront of volunteer management and thought-leadership, and those from outside of volunteer management, who will challenge and provoke us to think differently.

This year, for obvious reasons, we are unable to hold our conference face-to-face, so this year we are holding it on Zoom.

The 2020 conference will be held across two mornings – Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 October. On each day we will have a keynote speaker with a Q&A, eight workshops to choose from on a variety of themes, and a panel session at the end of each morning 

We realise the opportunities to network and chat to other leaders of volunteering from across a variety of sectors and organisations are more limited online, so will be using Zoom meeting, which allows you to chat with one another. We will also be hosting two optional ‘cuppa and a chat’ sessions, on the afternoons of both days, for more networking, and to reflect on what you’ve heard during the morning.

Buy tickets for AVM annual conference 2020 - 21 & 22 October

Agenda

Day 1: Wednesday 21 October

  • From 09:30: Join other delegates for informal networking in Zoom, ahead of the event. 
    • The breakfast offering won’t be quite the same this year, so bring a cuppa with you.
  • 10:00: Conference opens with a welcome from Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM
  • 10:10: Keynote: Martha Awojobi – Charity So White
    • We’re really pleased that Martha Awojobi of Charity So White has agreed to speak this year about racism in the charity sector. 
    • Martha will give a 20 minutes keynote speech, followed by a 20 Q&A, with questions facilitated by our team.
  • 11:00: Break 
    • An opportunity for a cuppa and a comfort break. 
    • Delegates will leave main Zoom meeting and log in to their breakout room
  • 11:20: Workshops (details below)
    • Each workshop will be in a separate Zoom meeting, hosted by a member of the AVM Board.
    • Each workshop will run on both days. 
    • Please book on to one workshop per day.
  • 12:05: Leave workshop and rejoin main Zoom meeting, with the option of joining a breakout room for networking.
  • 12:25: What does an anti-racist approach to volunteering mean for Volunteer Managers? 
    • This live panel session will be chaired by Rachael Bayley, Director of Operations and Volunteering, Ramblers
  • 12:55: Closing remarks
  • 15:00 – 16:00: Cuppa and a chat
    • Optional facilitated networking session

Day 2: Thursday 22 October

  • From 09:30: Join other delegates for informal networking in Zoom, ahead of the event.
    • The breakfast offering won’t be quite the same this year, so bring a cuppa with you.
  • 10:00: Conference opens with a welcome from Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM
  • 10:10: Keynote: Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive St John Ambulance 
    • We’re really pleased that Martin Houghton-Brown has agreed to speak and share his views on the importance of volunteer management and volunteers.
    • Martin will give a 20 minutes keynote speech, followed by a 20 Q&A, with questions facilitated by our team.
  • 11:00: Break
    • An opportunity for a cuppa and a comfort break.
    • Delegates will leave main Zoom meeting and log in to their breakout room
  • 11:20: Workshops (details below)
    • Each workshop will be in a separate Zoom meeting, hosted by a member of the AVM Board.
    • Each workshop will run on both days.
    • Please book on to one workshop per day.
  • 12:05: Leave workshop and rejoin main Zoom meeting, with the option of joining a breakout room for networking.
  • 12:25: What is the role of the Volunteer Manager in the new normal following Covid-19?
    • This live panel session will be chaired by Rachael Bayley, Director of Operations and Volunteering, Ramblers
  • 12:55: Closing remarks
  • 16:00 – 17:00: Cuppa and a chat
    • Optional facilitated networking session

The agenda is correct at time of publication. AVM will contact you about any changes in advance of the event.

Workshops

This year we are running all eight workshops on both days. Please only book on to one workshop per day.

FULLY BOOKED: Workshop A: Inspiring Impact – NCVO Charities Evaluation Services – The importance of measuring your impact: a practical guide
Amira Tharani, Senior Consultant, NCVO Charities Evaluation Services

This session will discuss practical approaches for voluntary organisations to demonstrate the impact of their work, including resources, tools, and opportunities for learning. We will explore in an interactive setting not only how you can bring this vital information to life, but also how it can be helpful for your organisations, beneficiaries, and your volunteers.

Topics discussed include:

  • Why do we measure?
  • How to know what to measure?
  • Practical resources and tools to help build a foundation for impact measurement

Workshop B: Generating youth engagement with your organisation 
Anjali Raman-Middleton, Student Organiser, UK Student Climate Network

Now Thursday 22nd only

Do you need an insight into the teenage mindset that you may have forgotten? In this workshop you will learn from Anjali, a young climate activist, how to improve youth access and engagement in your organisation, including:

  • What young people need and want from organisations in their communities
  • How to inspire young people to contribute and engage in your organisation
  • Ways to provide young people with opportunities aiding their future employment
  • How best to engage with young people on social media
  • Other organisations young people are interested in and engaged by

Workshop C: Employer Supported Volunteering (for your own employees) 
Claire Booth, Volunteering Development Manager, Fairtrade Foundation

Are you looking to introduce an Employer Supported Volunteer programme in your organisation? In this workshop you will hear from Claire how she was involved in setting up an Employer Supported Volunteering programme for staff at the Fairtrade Foundation, and:

  • Understand the benefits of an employer supported volunteering scheme for your organisation and staff
  • Be able to put together a business case and learn tips for obtaining organisational buy in
  • Acquire ideas and knowledge on how to develop a scheme, create clear guidance and procedures, launch, communicate and roll out a pilot
  • Learn how to evaluate the scheme using your organisation’s theory of change •
  • Be aware of potential challenges and considerations for monitoring and maintaining momentum for the scheme

Workshop D: Establishing an alumni network 
Morven MacLean, Head of Volunteering , Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS)

Morven led the set up of an alumni network for former volunteers and staff at Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS). In this session you will learn practical tips from Morven on how to set up a similar networking, including:

  • the importance of the exit stage of the volunteer journey, and have a chance to reflect on how it can be improved
  • how to go about establishing an alumni network for volunteer and employee leavers
  • the benefits of an alumni network for both leavers and organisations the resources required to establish and run an alumni network.

Workshop E: The links between volunteering and wellbeing – findings from research 
Ingrid Abreu Scherer, Civil Society Lead at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Research shows there are strong links between volunteering and wellbeing. In this workshop Ingrid will help you start to: • understand the evidence behind the links between volunteering and wellbeing,

  • develop a theory of change of how volunteering can lead to better wellbeing’
  • use this understanding to design better volunteering programmes, and
  • evaluate and help build the evidence base on the subject.

Workshop F: First steps in volunteer management – making great relationships 
Laura Hamilton, Laura Hamilton Consulting 

Now Wednesday 21st only

Effective volunteer management relies on a strong relational approach between volunteers and volunteer managers. In this workshop, Laura will give you insights into how to build and maintain healthy relationships with volunteers and how to navigate your way through difficult dynamics and boundary issues, including:

  • Insights into motivational theory and volunteer engagement
  • Understanding how to create healthy relationships and boundaries with volunteers
  • Exploring relationship dynamics and difficulties

This workshop is for new volunteer managers, or those early on their career who want to learn how to strengthen relationships with volunteers.

Workshop G: How to Integrate Coaching & Mentoring in your Organisation : Start with the Why 
Sherie Olmstead, Managing Director of ‘Energy for Life and Soul’, Personal & Professional Coach

Being a mentor or coach to volunteers and staff in your organisation will enhance the communication, collaboration, trust and energy in your teams. In this workshop you will learn from Sherie how to integrate coaching and mentoring in your organisation, including:

  • Getting a clear understanding of what coaching and mentoring is and is not
  • Reflecting on your goal and can it be met with the integration of coaching and mentoring?
  • 3 easy steps that will help you be an outstanding coach
  • How to start a mentoring programme: and keep asking why

FULLY BOOKED: Workshop H: Influencing colleagues effectively 
Stephen Hill, Head of Volunteering, Parkinson’s UK

Are you a leader of volunteering looking for ways to increase your influence with your colleagues? Are you trying to raise the profile of volunteering in your organisation? In this session, Stephen will share his learnings from how Parkinson’s developed their Volunteering Business Partner model. In this session you hear from Stephen how to:

  • Identify internal influencers and stakeholders
  • Understand service redesign
  • Develop and roll out a Volunteering Business Partner / internal consultancy model
  • Some of the bumps you might encounter along the way

Each workshop will be in a separate Zoom meeting, hosted by a member of the AVM Board.

Buy tickets for AVM annual conference 2020 - 21 & 22 October

Tickets

Ticket prices are as follows:

AVM members tickets:

  • Early bird: £70 for both days
  • Standard price: £80 for both days

Non-AVM member tickets:

  • Early bird: £130 for both days
  • Standard price: £160 for both days

There are 50 early bird tickets available to members, and 10 for non-members. Once they are all sold, standard rate tickets will be available.

Buy tickets for AVM annual conference 2020 - 21 & 22 October

Claim your membership discount on your ticket

AVM members are eligible for a discount on their ticket, as well as other benefits, including our mentoring programme, BiteSize learning webcasts, networking opportunities, AVM’s new book club, and access to videos and presentations from past AVM events.

Not an AVM member yet? You can still buy a member rate ticket if your membership application is being processed: just select ‘Applied’ in the event checkout field. Find out more about AVM membership and join today.

Buy tickets for AVM annual conference 2020 - 21 & 22 October

Terms and conditions of ticket sales

You can pay by credit card or request an invoice at the checkout in Ticket Tailor.

Please familiarise yourselves with our cancellation policy, and payment terms below. We do require payment to be made before the event.

The agenda is correct at time of publication. AVM will contact you about any changes in advance of the event.

AVM will not accept liability for any ability to attend one or both days due to technical issues with a delegate’s equipment. If technical difficulties prevent AVM from hosting the conference, we will endeavour to reschedule the conference to another date(s), and a full or partial refund will be offered if the new date(s) is/are unsuitable.

Buy tickets for AVM annual conference 2020 - 21 & 22 October

Tickets for just one day are also available, and linked from the main event page.

Being More Pirate: reflections on AVM’s 2019 conference

I have now finished my second month as an Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London). However, I have been working with volunteers for the best part of 4 years in different shapes and forms. Most of my experience has been stewarding groups of volunteers, and in the last year it has taken a more strategic turn.  The most exciting thing about starting at UCL is joining their campaign ‘It’s All Academic’, and being able to contribute to achieving 250,000 alumni volunteer hours. No small feat; so when I was asked if I would like to go to the AVM conference I jumped at the opportunity! The morning of the conference was a busy one. Having not attended an AVM conference I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite knowing a few friendly faces from the volunteering world. While stuck in tube delays Twitter soon diminished any doubts I had, I saw lots of tweets from other volunteer managers who were sharing gifs about their journeys and needing coffee. On arrival I enjoyed maybe a few too many pastries, and had a look around the various stalls. One of my first observations was just how many people from different organisations who were all here for volunteers! All the main stage presentations and panel talks where excellent; however my particular favourite was ‘Be More Pirate’. Alex Barker told us about the golden age of pirates, which was absolutely fascinating, and not just because I am a history nerd! Alex discussed how volunteers can play a pivotal role in challenging and reshaping systems. She drew comparisons between people who are considered do-it-yourselfers, side hustlers, and the Golden Age Pirates. As a new starter in a brand new role this was certainly food for thought! I also thoroughly enjoyed Amira Tharani’s impact and evaluation workshop. Amira’s workshop gave me great insight on where to start when evaluating a project area or programme in such an interactive way. I came out of the workshop armed with new ideas and resources to make those ideas a reality.  Going forward, I am excited to get further involved in AVM and learn everything I can from the fantastic network!

Hannah Kinghorn is Alumni Volunteer Manager at UCL (University College London)

Collaborating to improve volunteering

Guest blog by Carly Benton, Volunteering Development Manager at Lymphoma Action.

Lymphoma Action’s Volunteering Development Manager, Carly, shares why she is part of a team who organise an annual volunteer managers conference.

AVM’s conference planning team at the 2019 conference

This October saw another successful Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) annual conference in London. AVM is a membership organisation that aims to support, represent and champion leaders of volunteering across the UK. Carly, our Volunteering Development Manager, has been part of the conference planning team since 2016, helping to identify a programme of speakers, promoting the conference and coordinating the event on the day.

This year’s conference welcomed over 250 leaders of volunteering, with a jam-packed agenda where attendees explored the future of volunteering, alongside practical tips for recruiting, managing, supporting and empowering volunteers.

By being involved, Carly is able to stay up-to-date and connected with sector news and ideas that will support the development of volunteering at Lymphoma Action, as well as representing the charity and contributing to the learning and development of volunteer managers across the UK.

Following the the launch our new Volunteering Strategy, Carly is reviewing key take aways from the conference to grow our volunteering programme and support our volunteers to make the greatest positive impact for people affected by lymphoma.

“It’s fantastic to collaborate with other volunteer managers to plan the conference and to experience the event as a volunteer manager too. It’s inspiring to hear about the collective impact the voluntary sector is making and to be part of the engaging conversations for developing volunteering in our own organisations.”

Carly, Lymphoma Action

The post originally appeared on Lymphoma Action’s website. Read the original post.

AVM Conference 2019 — October 17

Your voice, together with AVM, advancing volunteer management

Bookings are now closed and conference is full!

Watch this space for details about next year’s conference.


Royal National Hotel (North Reception)
Bedford Way
London
WC1H 0DG

The Royal National Hotel offers excellent bedroom rates through their website, but if you would prefer to stay elsewhere check out our Hotelmap to see the best rates at other local hotels.
Conference chair - Rachael Bayley, Ramblers and AVM Director

Please note, there is no entry to the event before 9.15am with the conference agenda beginning at 10am.
9.15am Conference registration opens
Refreshments available – tea, coffee, breakfast yoghurts and Danish pastries.

Chance to make new contacts, meet old friends and check out our exhibition stands
10am Welcome address
Ruth Leonard, AVM Chair
10.10am Keynote
Alex Barker, Right Hand Pirate - Be More Pirate
10.55am Morning workshops – Please choose one when you book
  • A: From mass-participation mega-event to people-powered movement - Shaun Crummey - Head of Volunteering, Absolutely Cultured (formerly Hull UK City of Culture) (click to learn more)

    Diversity and inclusion in the story of Hull’s ground-breaking UK City of Culture volunteer initiative.

    In this workshop Shaun will share experience and thinking on:

    • Access: Ensuring inclusive recruitment, empowerment and retention.
    • Diversity: Tips for ensuring diversity across multiple-events volunteering.
    • People-Power: Maintaining momentum and diversity from mega-event to people-powered movement.
    Attendees at this workshop will take away proven and practical examples of working practice. Transferable ideas – shaped across a range of sectors (e.g. sports, community, arts & culture volunteering etc.).
  • NOW FULLY BOOKED B: Volunteers and the Law: Key Topics – Mark Restall - Freelance trainer, consultant and writer, specialising in volunteer management issues (click to learn more)

    The law is an off-putting topic. It seems to be on the one hand difficult to understand and full of jargon, and on the other fraught with danger if you get things wrong. Volunteer managers naturally worry about the legal position of their volunteers, and their own responsibilities.

    This session will attempt to allay some fears. It will give an overview of the legal status of volunteers, and cover some of the core areas where things could go wrong, always from a practical point of view and in plain English.

    It will cover:

    • How to avoid creating an employment contract
    • Data protection after the GDPR
    • Health and Safety and your responsibilities
  • C: Attracting and recruiting younger people into volunteering from disadvantaged backgrounds - Sue Heritage - Head of Operations, StreetGames
  • D: Managing remote volunteers – building relationships and engagement with remote volunteers – Alan Bennett - Programme Delivery Executive (Early Years), The Scouts (click to learn more)

    This session will encourage you to think differently about your role as a supporter and motivator of volunteers. How do we engage and empower volunteers who we may never meet face to face? Alan will share his experiences and, in addition to your own contributions, give you the confidence to try something different in building relationships with remote volunteers.

    Please come with your questions and curiosity as together we will explore this topic further.

12.15pm AVM AGM or networking time for non-members
12.35pm Lunch and chance to network
A sit-down meal is provided with a range of dietary options. Please let us know of any special dietary requirements when you book
1.45pm In conversation with...Karl Wilding, Chief Executive, NCVO
Come and hear AVM Chair, Ruth Leonard ask the new Chief Executive of NCVO his thoughts on volunteering, volunteer management and the place of civil society within the changing world.

Help inform the debate by joining the conversation
2.30pm Afternoon workshops – Please choose one when you book
  • E: Be More parkrun – Helen Timbrell – People and Organisational Development Consultant (click to learn more)

    We all know parkrun is one of the most successful volunteering programmes to emerge in recent years: over 25,000 people volunteer with parkrun every weekend. The scale, speed of growth and levels of commitment parkrun volunteers show are enviable. So, how have they made that happen? As an experienced leader and manager of volunteering my experience as a founding Event Director (setting up a new parkrun event in 2018) and subsequently as a parkrun Volunteer Coordinator has been illuminating. There is much we can learn from parkrun with regard to how to engage and support volunteers.

    This session offers a personal perspective drawn from my combined experience as a strategic leader of volunteering and as an on the ground parkrun volunteer. It aims to offer practical insights, ideas to steal, challenges to consider and a sneaky peak behind the scenes. I believe volunteering in the UK needs to Be More parkrun. Come and find out why.
  • F: What leaders of volunteer engagement can learn from Pete Tong? – Rob Jackson – Consultant, Rob Jackson Consulting Limited (click to learn more)

    Despite our best efforts, sometimes volunteer engagement doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes things go a bit Pete Tong (wrong!).

    In this session you’ll hear from a panel who have dealt with problem situations in three different kinds of organisations. You’ll get a chance to ask the panel questions and then reflect on and discuss with peers the lessons for your own practice.
  • NOW FULLY BOOKED G: Wisdom for the Wise Volunteer Manager – Sally Seddon – Volunteer Engagement Manager, Shared Interest & Jen Stoneman – Volunteer Services Co-ordinator, Mencap (click to learn more)

    Come and share your great ideas, lightbulb moments, your challenges and questions for great volunteer management. This workshop will give you the opportunity to share your successes and ask for help with challenges to develop your volunteer management skills and resources. This workshop will bring you together with your peers in a safe environment to discuss and learn new ideas, techniques and skills you can take away with you.

    This session is particularly suited to those new to volunteer management or those working alone on volunteer management within their organisations but is open to everyone.
  • H: Inspiring Impact - NCVO Charities Evaluation Services - The importance of measuring your impact: a practical guide - Amira Tharani – Senior Consultant, NCVO Charities Evaluation Services (click to learn more)

    This session will discuss practical approaches for voluntary organisations to demonstrate the impact of their work, including resources, tools, and opportunities for learning. We will explore in an interactive setting not only how you can bring this vital information to life, but also how it can be helpful for your organisations, beneficiaries, and your volunteers. Topics discussed include:

    • Why do we measure?
    • How to know what to measure?
    • Practical resources and tools to help build a foundation for impact measurement
3.45pm Tea, coffee & networking opportunity
4.10pm Volunteer Managers Advice Surgery
A Q&A session on whatever you want. Hosted by Ruth Leonard, AVM Chair; including Rob Jackson
4.50pm Closing Address
Ruth Leonard, AVM Chair
5pm Conference closes
5.15pm Informal post-conference drinks – please join us to network and relax
The AVM conference is always a highlight in our year. Our members tell us that it is the premier event for volunteer managers, leaders and heads of volunteering. Regularly attracting nearly 250 delegates, this event brings together those passionate and proactive about volunteer management.

We bring together the best speakers from our Learning and Development events as well as those people who are at the forefront of volunteer management and thought leadership.

The event takes the form of a mix of inspiring keynote speakers, eight workshops to choose from on a variety of themes and the Volunteer Managers’ Advice Surgery. Not to mention lots of opportunities to network and chat to other leaders of volunteering from across a variety of sectors and organisations.

We know that every year people leave the event buzzing with possibilities – and even more importantly the connections to help those possibilities become a reality. Don’t just take our word for it here are some of the things last year’s delegates had to say:
"Great keynote speeches. Nice supportive atmosphere. Practical workshops."

"Particularly enjoyed the workshops - difficult conversations was especially relevant and helpful and will inform the Volunteer Managers training I deliver."

"The opportunity to network with others and to hear from the keynote speakers. I liked the idea of the 'Advice Surgery'."

"Really inspirational content."

"Standard of speakers was excellent, thought provoking and interesting ideas." 

"Great central location easy to get to by train, friendly and relaxed event with people being very open to talk to new people and willing to share."

My experience of the AVM Conference
Carly Benton, Volunteer Development Manager, Lymphoma Action

In 2016 I joined the Volunteering Team at a previous organisation where I came across AVM through a colleague. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to be part of a supportive network of volunteer managers so I joined as a member. I attended my first annual conference in October 2016 with the hope of connecting with other volunteer managers, and the idea of keeping up to date with sector news, trends and new ideas was very appealing. I was eager to find out what AVM and the conference was about.

I attended the conference on my own, slightly unsure of what to expect. There was definitely a buzz walking into the main room, filled with conversations and welcoming faces! It was inspiring to see a large audience of people united with a shared passion and from across a variety of organisations and differing roles. I have attended many conferences and training days over the years, but how often are you in a room with over 200 volunteer managers?!

I enjoyed my first AVM conference so much so that I stepped up to join the AVM Conference Planning Group, where I’m now in my third year of helping to organise the annual conference. It’s been fantastic to experience the conference as an attendee, and to collaborate with other volunteer managers to plan it. I get a lot out of seeing the impact the voluntary sector has and what we can achieve as volunteer managers together.

The agenda is always jam-packed with a diverse range seminars and keynote speakers. There are thought-provoking sessions with ideas for volunteer managers from the corporate world and future trends and issues in volunteer management, to more practical based seminars for managing and supporting volunteers such as measuring impact. The mix is a brilliant way to explore current trends and a ‘bigger picture’ approach, alongside practical tips I could take away and implement in the short term.

For me there is nothing more valuable than meeting like-minded peers to challenge my thinking. There will always be areas for improvement and barriers to overcome in the world of volunteering. This is why the AVM Conference is the perfect place for volunteer managers to come together with a shared understanding, to not only develop your skillset and keep up to date with current trends, but also to reassure you you’re not in it alone!

Networking Tips

  • Take business cards – a quick and easy way of exchanging information
  • Use social media – I check the hashtag throughout the day to see what people are tweeting which gives me the opportunity to connect with people I wouldn’t necessarily have had the chance to meet during the day. I also follow some of the keynote and seminar speakers on Twitter who share some interesting topics that I keep up to date.
  • Come along with some ideas on what you would like to get out of the day and any areas for development you are working on in your organisation. These may come up in conversation with others and provide the opportunity for shared learning. For example in my organisation we were changing the structure of our volunteering programme so when speaking with others, I’d ask if anyone had any experience of this.
  • Take a look at the delegates list in the conference guide as its great way to see who is at the event – you may recognise a name or an organisation you’d like to connect with.
  • If you’ve made new connections previous to the conference, get in contact to see if they are attending and arrange to catch up on the day – a great way to put a face to a name if you haven’t met in person!

Twitter

Please use the hashtag #AVM2019 to join the conversation and involve others in this event.

Networking tips for AVM events

Networking… you might love it, you may hate it, or you might fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But however you feel about it, it can be really useful for your professional development. And with conference only a week away, I wanted to share some tips on preparing to make the most of the networking time at conference. I’ve crowd sourced some of these ideas through Twitter, which I highly recommend as a great way to start networking.

Do your research


via GIPHY

Is there someone you’ve wanted to meet for a while? There are a couple of ways you can find out who is going, ahead of conference.

Eventbrite shares first name and organisation of participants, so you can check out in advance if they are going, and look out for them on the day.

If you’re on Twitter and not already following @AVMTweets (why not?) do so. People are already starting to chat about conference. You can always ask who is going to start a conversation. Or maybe someone you chat to regularly on Twitter is going to be there? Every year I get to meet people I’ve met on Twitter at conference.

This year’s hashtag is #AVM2018 so do include this in any tweets about the conference.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

Prepare

This year I’ve been working with my mentor on a number of areas of professional and personal development. One of which has been to be more effective at networking, as I am really not very comfortable with small talk.

Part of my mentoring ‘homework’ has included preparing ahead of events like conference, or other AVM events. Things I’ve planned include something I’ve read that’s relevant to the event, or a key project I’m working on, and this has meant I’ve found I’m now less anxious before events.

I’ve also been thinking about questions to ask others at events. Is there something tricky I’m working on at the moment? I can ask someone if they’ve had to do something similar and how they handled it.
I’ve also been working on building my courage to talk to speakers at events, or someone whose work I admire. I still find it rather daunting to talk to the ‘experts’ from the stage, but I’m getting there! I just have to remind myself they’re a person like me.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

A simple greeting

Starting a conversation can feel really daunting, particularly if you’re not particularly comfortable with small talk. If you’re not very confident approaching people you’ve not met before, look for someone you know – or at least have met before, even if it was earlier in the event – who is talking to someone you don’t. This can often feel less daunting.

But what if you’ve come on your own and not met anyone yet? Never fear, the weather is bound to be unexpected for the season, someone’s travel to conference was probably eventful, and if all else fails, my old failsafe is “food/ coffee/ biscuits* look good/ bad/ awful*” (*delete as applicable), something I ALWAYS have an informed opinion about (don’t worry, the refreshments have always been great at conference!).

But once you’ve got past that first chat about food, and suddenly realise you’ve not actually introduced yourself, you can learn a simple networking greeting by remembering Inigo Montoya. Inigo’s most famous greeting can be broken down into four simple steps:

  1. Polite greeting: “Hello.”
  2. Name: “My name is Inigo Montoya.”
  3. Relevant personal link: “You killed my father.”
  4. Manage expectations: “Prepare to die.”

And there you have it, a simple networking greeting: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

And don’t worry: nobody at conference is expecting an elevator pitch from you. Where you’re from and what your role is is a great relevant personal link.

Try: Hi, I’m Jo and I’m a Volunteer Manager at Organisation X. Is this your first time at an AVM conference?

Thanks to Annabel Smith for sourcing the image.

A comfortable exit

via GIPHY

When we’re at events we often want to meet more people, but sometimes our nerves can mean we find it hard to exit a conversation, either resulting in feeling we’ve overstayed our welcome, or rude when we leave. Don’t worry: most people won’t think you’re rude if you leave the conversation. And you don’t need to use comfort break as an uncomfortable exit excuse. A polite thank you and goodbye will be sufficient.

Try: Steve, it was really a pleasure speaking with you. I’m going to take a look at some of the other exhibits here, but if I don’t run into you later, I hope to see you at another event soon.

Following up with contacts

Strengthening your networks is a great advantage of AVM events. If you think that you’d find it useful to follow up with someone, ask for their business card, or let them know you’ll plan to connect with them on LinkedIn.

Try: I had a great time talking with you about X and I’d love to follow up with you later? Do you have a business card, or can I connect with you on LinkedIn, as it would be great to keep in touch?

Facilitating your networking

We know striking up a conversation with someone you’ve not met before doesn’t come easy to everyone, including volunteer managers. So this year we’ve again planned ways to help facilitate your networking experience. We’ll have discussion prompts on the walls, networking tables over lunch to discuss a variety of topics, and plenty of breaks for a cuppa and a chat.

We’ve also booked a space after conference so that those who are able to stay on can have a drink, and carry on some of the great discussions that were started during the day.

Hope to see you at conference!

Find out more

Jo Gibney is an AVM Board member, and Strategic Volunteering Manager at Anthony Nolan.