Business conferences: Some people love them, but others find them stressful, intimidating and overwhelming. If you’re in the latter group, writer and editor Sarah Todd has tips to help you out.
√ Accept awkward interactions. In large networking situations, it’s not unusual for people to walk away abruptly in the middle of a conversation. That can sting, but you shouldn’t take it personally. “Sometimes I’d try heading off a prospective ditching by being the first one to bounce,” Todd writes, “and I also tried wildly inviting more people I didn’t know to join the conversation in order to keep the pressure off me in one-on-one scenarios. All these options went … weirdly, but that was fine!”
√ Dress to impress. People are looking at you everywhere you go and paying particular attention to the area where your nametag is hanging. They want to know who you are and if they want to talk to you. It’s your job to make a good impression and not place anything inappropriate such as excessive cleavage right next to the name tag.
√ Prepare an elevator pitch in advance. Each time you meet someone new at a conference, they will want to know a little bit about you. This can be tough, but it helps if you prepare something to say. Just a little story about yourself, what you’ve done and what you’re doing is all you need.
√ Connect for coolness, not career climbing. You’ll be much happier and more comfortable if you just focus on connecting with people who seem cool instead of worrying about which of your fellow attendees can do the most to help your career. “Since people who I like and admire usually do things that I think are cool too, I don’t see how this approach could possibly hurt, professional development-wise,” Todd writes.
√ Take a break from time to time. It’s hard to be “on” nonstop for the entire duration of a conference— even a short one—so don’t be afraid to step out of the fray for a break every once in a while. You can step outside to text your friends, go get some coffee or just hang out away from the crowd. “Also, it turns out that sometimes when you’re just sitting by yourself, people will actually approach you,” Todd writes.
√ Don’t worry, everyone feels judged. You’re not alone in feeling like you’re being watched and judged. The truth is you are, but not as much as you fear. Besides, it doesn’t matter, so just relax.
— Adapted from “Conference Survival Skills,” Sarah Todd, The Billfold.