Whether it’s to pick up continuing education credits or network with others in your field, attending conferences offers a unique way to expand your work beyond the scope of the office. But what if you’re shy? Even if you hate crowds, traveling, and conversations with strangers, these tips will help you get the most out of the experience.
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1. Arrive the night before the conference.
Sometimes it is tempting to save a few bucks by not sleeping in your hotel room any more nights than absolutely necessary. However, the night before is actually important. There is no point in spending the first day at a conference groggy and not at your best.
You will miss out on information and opportunities to learn if you’re tired from traveling that morning. Also, if you are nervous about being in a new environment or shy about talking to new people, being out of it will make things worse. If you are well-rested, you will be better able to meet the challenges of the day.
Another reason to arrive the day before is to give yourself a chance to check out the area. Make sure you know where everything is so you don’t get lost.
2. Hang around the coffee table.
Be social, even if you are normally shy. The coffee area is a great place to meet people. People naturally gravitate toward the coffee and snacks when they don’t have something else to do or somebody to talk to. This is a relatively easy situation in which to meet other professionals and to network.
Even if you are shy, if you see somebody who you would like to meet who is not otherwise engaged, gather your courage and walk over to say, “Hi.” Introduce yourself. It doesn’t have to turn into a long, deep or intense conversation. But making a connection with important people in your field is valuable.
3. Don’t be a turtle.
Instead of making a beeline for your room at the end of the day, hang around and see if there is anything going on. It is tempting for the more introverted to get back to the room to process information from the day’s events in private. You can do that anytime.
Conferences are just as much about networking as they are about learning new information. You don’t have to go dancing with your more extroverted colleagues, but you may make valuable connections just hanging out and taking your time at the end of the day. Don’t be in a rush to hole up in your room.
Conferences are opportunities to learn and gain new professional knowledge, but there is also a wealth of networking opportunities that are often just as important.
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