- Volunteer! Best way to meet new people and feel a part of the conference.
- Join! There are often Special Interest Groups (SIGs) or other groups within a conference that try to bring people with common interests together.
- Introduce yourself! Try to meet as many people as you can at the conference. Challenge yourself to meet as many people as you can as possible. Ask them questions like: What's the best presentation you've attended so far? Are there any speakers you really like and would recommend to someone new to a conference attend? What area are you focusing on at the conference? A conference is the best way to work on your communication and networking skills. Buy a book on networking and try some of the techniques. If you are new to the conference no one knows you, what do you have to lose? Ask them about what environments they are running? What challenges are they having with their technology?
- Attend get togethers! Every conference has breakfast, unconference and birds of a feather meetings and other ways to network. If one doesn't work out, don't get discouraged. Remember you don't know anyone there how can you make a mistake.
- Business cards! Bring business cards and everyone you meet give them a business card. Who knows, someone might even give you there card. :)
- Prepare! Get organized. There are tons of great books, blogs, and Internet information on 10 ten tips for introducing yourself, networking and socializing. Try them.
- Submit! Submit a presentation. Awesome way to expand your comfort level and for people to get to know you. Most important thing people want at a conference is to learn from other people's experiences. You don't have to be a top expert. Do not underestimate what you have to say?
Networking is always rated first or second in terms of benefits for people that attend conferences. If you would like to increase your networking skills I would recommend you read the book "Million Dollar Networking" by Andrea Nierenberg. This will give you a lot of great ideas, recommendations and things to say to greatly increase your networking skills. You are going to spend thousands of dollars to attend the conference, why not spend another $30 and maximize the networking you can do.
Everybody attending a conference has been in your shoes. Go introduce yourself to volunteers or speakers. Ask them about ways to maximize the time at the conference and what speakers they like to see. All volunteers I guarantee you want you to have fun and enjoy the conference and they know what its like to go to a conference for the first time. Most importantly, find out if any conference volunteers are around, they are some of the coolest, most enjoyable and high energetic people you'll find at the conference. :)