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Surviving a Business Conference Leave With a Bigger Network and Valuable Takeaways Part 2

By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, Guide
(Continued from Page 1)

Getting to Know You
I'm the first person to tell you how important it is to network. I'm also the first person to tell you how difficult it is for me to do so. When I walked into the opening event of the conference, a huge "getting to know you" cocktail party, I was taken aback by the sheer number of people there. It was almost tempting to turn around and walk out, but of course I didn't. It was also tempting to find my little bit of floor space and hope that someone would walk over to me and start a conversation. But, that would have left me feeling too vulnerable. So I did what I needed to do. I walked into the room almost as far as I could go, and approached a group of friendly faces. I introduced myself, hoping I wouldn't stumble over my own name. I didn't. It turns out that almost everyone I spoke to was as overwhelmed as I was. Which brings me to an important point. Keep in mind that if you are nervous about meeting a huge number of people, you are not alone in feeling this way. Perhaps misery loves company, but hearing that others were experiencing anxiety helped ease mine.

Another trick I use is to imagine how someone else would act in the situation I'm in. I think of people I know who would be more comfortable. Of course, it's important to be yourself, but with some of the qualities you admire in another person. Try it -- it really works. Also, psych yourself up beforehand. Think of all the special qualities that make you who you are. If you need help coming up with a list, ask a close friend. Also remember that people love to talk about themselves. When you meet new people ask them about themselves.

Beware of alcohol. While drinking alcoholic beverages may loosen you up and make interacting with strangers easier, it is wise to keep this to a minimum. You don't want to lose self-awareness, and perhaps say something or do something you don't mean to. While one glass of wine or a beer may help you feel more relaxed, more than that may make you a little too uninhibited.

Coming Away With Something Valuable
When all is said and done, make sure you take something valuable home from the conference. And, I'm not talking about pens and sticky pads with the corporate logo, although those are fun too. I'm talking about ideas. There's nothing like a good business conference to get the creative juices flowing. Just by talking to people informally you will get some really good ideas. You will learn how your colleagues have solved problems or found better ways to do their jobs. You will also learn a lot from the formal meetings you attend. Carry a notebook to write down what you learn and any ideas you come up with yourself.
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