“Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.”

— Peter McWilliams

Conference Networking 101

Conferences are a great place to not only renew your vision, be inspired, and gain knowledge, but to make new contacts inside and outside your industry — other business people who share similar interests and specialties. Network! The challenge is to go outside your personal comfort zone and actively try to meet people.

Everybody is basically in the same boat: terrified to start a conversation with a random person. Be the brave one and initiate the conversation. There’s no risk — strangers are only friends you haven’t met.

Another way to push yourself out of your comfort zone is to sit with people you don’t know, even if you’ve come with friends. This can be hard, because if you’ve all travelled together or planned to meet up, the easier choice is to remain together. So if you just can’t be separated, then choose a place to sit with other people and include them in the conversation.

Treat everyone as an equal. You never know who you’re talking to so be nice, stay interested and ask lots of questions. This person could be anywhere in the world but they are here and spending time talking to you. Give them the attention they deserve.

Take the initiative to say hello to your heroes. Conferences give us a chance to see, in person, the industry experts and leaders in our community. Most of the micro-celebrities in your industry will be happy to give advice. Ask and you may be surprised. You’ve spent the money to get there so you might as well make it count. Beyond approaching the “experts”, push yourself to get up at an open mic to showcase and share your experiences, or pose a good question. If you’ve always dreamed about being interviewed on a popular blog or podcast, why not try to arrange it?

As an entrepreneur I’ve learned time and time again that the broader your network is, the better it can be for business and personal growth.