By Amy Wooldridge |

In a follow-up to her previous post about conference networking, Amy Wooldridge returns to tell us how to use coffee and tea as networking tools

No matter how many times my fellow scientists deny it, based on almost-complete lack of a way to confirm it, I maintain that coffee has magical powers. My caffeine dependency reaches peak levels during conferences. This isn’t just because I’m thoroughly exhausted, but because I’m so genuinely interested in absorbing as much of the interesting research as I can. One poor woman at a conference display stand actually made me a five-shot latte once, saying with a sympathetic look that I “looked very tired,” she gave me an extra shot… whatever it was, it did the trick before I was even one third of the way through it!

…my coffee addiction has been a powerful networking tool


“Sleep? Oh, but I did… on the plane to the conference just the other day!”

But besides causing a chemical dependency, my coffee addiction has been a powerful networking tool. After all, if you’re standing in a 20 person-long line waiting for your turn to order a free display stand coffee, it’s the perfect time to practice your casual networking skills! And you know at least one thing about the person waiting just behind or in front of you – that they enjoy coffee, too. If the line is very long, perhaps catch someone’s eye and say “oooh, the coffee at this stand must be good – the line is three times as long as at the other stand!” or perhaps “I tried the coffee from here yesterday, and it was delicious!” or even “have you had the coffee from here yet? Is it good?” Just think of a one-liner about coffee, and the worst that could happen is the other person smiles or nods knowingly and then completely ignores you – not a complete loss, because if their silence isn’t lack-of-caffeine-induced, they mightn’t have made such great collaborators, anyway. By making one-liners with a smile and reasonably cheerful disposition, you appear more approachable and people will be more likely to recognise you during the lunch breaks.


Don’t like coffee? Five-shot latte put you off drinking coffee for at least the next three hours? Fear not – there is usually a table with tea-bags for you to serve yourself. I once noticed someone else waiting for me to finish making my green tea, and I said something along the lines of “it’s nice to enjoy some hot tea after a busy day, isn’t it?” That one-liner started a brief but enjoyable conversation about the other person’s laboratory, which was in Portland – he tried describing Portland’s location by saying that it was “directly above Hollywood, on a map.”  I, however, am a geographically-challenged person and had no idea where even that was. I found out during a symposium that he was one of the conference’s invited speakers, and during his presentation he even mentioned having a lovely conversation with someone the previous day who had no idea where Hollywood was (whoops!!). Anyway, somehow the combination of that encounter and my attending an early-morning “working group” session led to my co-authoring a review with this person and later visiting his lab in the USA and presenting my research there. Tea = magic. Boom.

Amy Wooldridge is a research associate at the University of Western Australia. Her research focuses on development and modulation of the preterm innate immune system, to improve outcomes in preterm infants at risk of infection and inflammatory health conditions. You can follow her on Twitter @EvilOverlordAmy

Image 1 by Andrew Lloyd Gordon, CC0

Image 2 by Markus Spiske, CC0

Image 3 by Unsplash, CC0