From Panels to Partnerships: Strategies for Diversifying Your Network  

Megan Aanstoos, PhD, RTTP

AUTM Board Member
Senior Program Officer, VentureWell


Collaboration is essential in technology transfer. If we don’t partner, we cannot create pathways for our technologies to reach the market and change the world. As we develop our networks for partnering—whether it is related to taking out a technology, finding a new role or engaging with new collaborators to expand opportunities—it is important to make sure we are consciously engaging with a diversity of voices.
It's tempting to get comfortable with partnering for social and financial engagements – returning to the same people over and over. While this can create some vital stability for successful ventures, it also limits the perspectives we bring to our innovations and the exposure we achieve for our technologies and for ourselves. The broader your network, the higher your chance of learning something new, making additional connections for engagement, obtaining funding and impacting the world.

Networking is intentional, and it takes work; just hoping to expand your engagement will not result in change and impact. In the current hybrid environment, it can be hard to find new people and bring them into your network. This is especially true when we think globally – travel is expensive and tedious, so we often end up connecting with the same folks in our area because it is convenient.
One way to meet new individuals is through virtual panels, webinars and virtual or in-person meetings—something to keep in mind, especially if you will be attending one of several AUTM events scheduled in the coming weeks or participating in a panel at the 2024 Annual Meeting in February.
As audience members, if you really admire the things a panelist says, reach out to them afterward and continue the conversation! Also, consider asking questions or providing comments in the chat for a virtual meeting. AUTM On the Air podcast guests share their contact information at the end, so if you found their stories and advice helpful, connecting with them can provide you and them valuable engagement opportunities. You can connect with speakers via LinkedIn, AUTM e-groups, in person at a meeting, or just give them your card/contact information and ask for a call.

As a panelist, if you are invited to engage, ask who else is going to be speaking and make a point to get to know them. If you are moderating, think carefully about your panel. Does it represent diverse voices? Do you have perspectives that will do more than just agree? Will your panel’s discussion create opportunities for new voices to enter the room? Are you challenging yourself and your panelists to reach new heights and have a difficult (but productive) conversation?

If you agree that expanding your network and engagement strategies is important, but don’t know where to start, here are some tips: 

  • Connect with the authors of AUTM Insight columns – we love the chance to speak about our topics in more detail!
  • Post a request on the AUTM e-groups for what you need. This is especially useful for building out those panels for AUTM meetings!
  • Make one new connection a week on LinkedIn – don’t forget to leave a message explaining why you want to connect!
  • Get involved in volunteer efforts, as it’s a great way to meet new people and make an impact!
  • Ask a former panelist or other trusted individual in your network to recommend someone “like, but somewhat different” from them. 

As we look ahead to the Annual Meeting in San Diego, I challenge all of you who are putting together sessions, attending, exhibiting and sponsoring to make a concerted effort to meet someone new and bring them into your network. It’ll help you, it’ll help them, and it’ll help us all to be part of an inclusive community.
Here’s to diverse, thoughtful, engaging panels, conversations and engagements!