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Surviving a Business Conference Getting Ready to Attend a Business Conference

By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, Guide

I can't even begin to describe how nervous I was during the weeks leading up to a large business conference I was planning to attend. I would be flying across the country (which I find anxiety provoking by itself) to meet over 400 associates whom I had never met before.

When I spoke to other conference attendees about how I felt, I found out that many other people felt the same way. Business conferences can be very stressful, so I decided an article about surviving them was in order.

Preparing for the Conference
When I first heard about the conference I was very excited. I thought about what a great opportunity it would be to meet my colleagues. Since we work remotely, most of us had never met before. I booked my flight to Las Vegas, where the conference would be held, a couple of months in advance. From that moment on, I began to get this feeling of "Uh oh! What did I get myself into?" Using hindsight, I can now tell you what I should have done to alleviate this feeling.

Shyness has been an issue for me for as long as I can remember. Fortunately, I have never let it get in my way and I have managed to overcome it for the most part. If asked for my opinion I don't hesitate to give it. However, if I'm not asked for my opinion, I generally keep quiet. Even though my colleagues and I have a couple of places we can interact with one another, such as regular chats and message boards, I don't regularly contribute to either. Big mistake. Had I taken part in chats or posted more to the message boards, I would have felt more involved rather than like someone on the outside looking in.

If shyness is a problem for you, I think you'll be able to relate to this feeling. So here is my advice to you. Get to know as many people as possible before you attend a business conference. You won't walk into it feeling like you are jumping head-first into a sea of strangers. If you are attending the national meeting of a professional organization, try to attend local chapter meetings. If you are representing your company at a trade show, perhaps you can contact colleagues who will be attending as well. Arrange to get together for a meal or coffee during the conference. This will also allow you to view the conference attendees as individuals, rather than a mass of people.

Looking Your Best
The better I think I look, the better I feel about myself. If my hair looks good, and if I'm dressed well, my self confidence is up. About a week before the conference I got a haircut. That gave me about a week to get used to it. The day before I left for the conference I got a manicure. I had to have my hands look good for all the meeting and greeting.

You should find out what attire is appropriate. In most cases business casual is a good idea. Anything more or less might make you look (and feel) out of place. However, if you're making a presentation, or manning a booth, something more formal may be called for. Bring clothes that travel well. Anything that creases easily probably isn't a good idea. Make sure your clothes are comfortable -- that beautiful wool sweater may look great with your black trousers, but all that scratching may bring you funny looks.

Comfortable shoes are a must. Don't wear brand new shoes, no matter how good they felt in the store. Nobody else will know that your toes are being pinched, but it may detract from your ability to concentrate. Don't wear worn out shoes either. People do in fact notice this small detail.
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