D is for Drinking
It should go without saying that drinking too much is a bad idea when in a professional situation (any situation, really!). Many of us have been at business focused events where we have seen people get drunk and make a spectacle of themselves. Don't be that person. This will always harm your reputation, and possibly damage the reputation of your company.
Attending trade shows, conferences, conventions, seminars and other events often have social components that will involve food and drinks. These festivities present fabulous opportunities to meet people and have meaningful conversations. Human beings are social creatures, and when we can share experiences with each other, we forge bonds.
But these parties are not a free pass to gluttony! Do not try to take all the free food and drink that you can get in one setting, as people will notice (stacking your plate with 40 pieces of shrimp can be just as bad for your reputation as getting drunk!)
Not everyone drinks alcohol, nor should they. Some people avoid it for religious reasons, others for health purposes, some do not like the way they feel after a drink, and many people have issues with addiction. While I would NEVER suggest you put yourself in situations where the temptation is too great, remember that "drinking" is not the purpose of attending the social aspects of a conference. (If you have legitimate reasons why to stay away, then stay away, but don't make up excuses).
Some of the best networking will happen at happy hour, after hours in the hotel bar, or at vendor-sponsored off-sight parties. You do not have to drink booze to partake in these gatherings. The power of social interaction will be different at each event, but you should participate whenever possible to make sure that you are connecting in these comfortable and informal settings. This allows you to get to know others in a more personal way.
If you self-identify as an introvert, remember that "introverts are BETTER networkers" (See "I is for Introverts" - coming soon!).
While you should avoid drinking too much, you also probably want to avoid the people who are too tipsy. Do not put up with rude behavior for the sake of networking, and never remain in any situation where you do not feel comfortable or safe. All kinds of things happen in the world, so be aware of the dark side when participating in any activity.
Fortunately the obnoxious folks are the exception, not the rule. Most business professionals know how behave in a social situation, and having conversations is an important part to establishing real relationships.
The social aspects of a trade show or convention can be the conduit to making strong business connections that can, and will, provide you with the return on your investment for attending the event. You have to participate to maximize your conference.
Have A Great Day.
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com