Nine tips for students at the show
BY GABI IUS
NOT ONLY DOES the Sunbelt Ag Expoattract industry professionals, vendors, andcommunity leaders with its many exhibits, it also brings in a large number of students of all ages. Many visit on school tripsor with their local FFA or 4-H chapters. College students from all over the Southeastcome to participate and volunteer. Forundergraduates, a visit to the Expo oftenmeans more than a chance to pick up somefree swag. This is an opportunity to makeconnections outside their college program.They can network with industry professionals, gain a better understanding of the various career options in agriculture, and gethands-on experience in the field. Not tomention a chance to connect and relatewith other students in agriculture. Regardless of if you’re still in high school or wellinto your college years, here are a few tipsand tricks for making the most of your timeat the expo this year.
1 Get engaged! There are so many seminars and events going onthat allow you to interact directly withindustry professionals and ask questions.Exhibitors want their audience to takepart in what they’re teaching so that youboth get the most out of the experience.By getting involved in the action, you areguaranteed to learn more and stand out.
2 Don’t be afraid to start up a con- versation. Whether it’s speakingwith someone after a live demonstrationor while waiting in line for lunch, there’splenty of ways to make new connections.Starting with small talk is a great way toopen up a conversation. Many people arecurious about students and their futureplans which you can use to help transitioninto a real conversation. Try to find something you both have in common, such as amutual acquaintance or connection to anorganization.
3 Attending virtually? No problem, there are still plenty of ways tocreate connections. The events and seminars often identify who will be presenting.
A quick social media search of the orga-
nization or person can provide you with
plenty of ways to interact, connect, and
get a better idea of who they are. Compa-
nies often have the option for you to opt
into their e-newsletter through their web-
site which is a great way for you to stay
4 Get familiar with the unfamiliar. Since the agricultural industryis so broad, it’s easy to get comfortablein your niche. Take the time to exploreexhibits and meet people outside yoursector of the industry. You want to havevariety in your professional contacts. TheExpo gives you plenty of opportunities tomeet someone new with a different areaof expertise than you.
5 Make the most of your visit. Col- leges from all over the Southeast come to the Expo to showcase theirundergraduate and graduate programs.Students can get a better idea of whatareas of study are offered by each college and find the right fit for them. Thisis a unique chance to meet with professors and current students from a varietyof schools. Valuable connections can begained by prospective students withintheir program of interest before they evenenroll.
6 First impressions matter. Simple courtesy to those around youcan help you stand out in the right way.
When meeting someone for the first time,it’s important to maintain eye contact,attentiveness, and good manners to showyou are engaged. You never know who’swatching so make sure you’re on your bestbehavior while attending the Expo. Also,
don’t forget to dress the part for the occasion; athletic shorts and a t-shirt are nice,but if you are going to network, opt fornice jeans or khaki pants with a nice shirt.7 Set personal goals for your time at he Expo. If you know what youwant before the event, it’ll make it easiernot to get distracted once you’re there.Going in, try to set reasonable goals andhave realistic expectations. Ask yourself “how do each of these specific goalshelp me reach my ultimate objective ofexpanding my professional network?”8 Keep a positive attitude and an open mind. Creating connections with new people as a student takespatience. You simply aren’t going to clickwith every person you meet. You neverknow when or where you’ll meet that newcontact, especially at the Sunbelt Ag Expo.Even your current connections can helpyou by introducing you to their contacts.9 Follow up with your connections. The connections you make haveto be maintained to ensure you have a wayto stay in touch. Prior to the show makesure you have a professional email you canpass on to anyone you meet. You can alsoadd any new connections on LinkedIn, theprofessional networking platform. This is agreat resource for students trying to stayconnected with any industry professionals they might meet.