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Get Out From Behind Your Computer

Improve your online business by making the most of seminars, workshops and conferences.

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Every few minutes, another suitcase gets wheeled past my office door as my seminar team heads out on tour. And seeing everybody getting ready for the road reminds me how valuable seminars and workshops can be to an online entrepreneur.

When you have an online business, it's all too easy to isolate yourself and spend your time hunched over your computer. If you're running a one-person operation, there just aren't many opportunities to throw ideas around with other people.

On top of that, there's this thing called life. Kids, school and yard work leave little time to look at the big picture.

But workshops, seminars and conferences give you the chance to take time out of your busy life to focus exclusively on some aspect of your business, free from interruptions and distractions. If you're just starting out and are overwhelmed by the amount of information you need to absorb, workshops can give you a crash course. If you've been at it awhile, they're a great tune-up. You can come away with some new strategies, extra motivation or a look at the basics with fresh eyes. And, of course, they're your best opportunity get out from behind your computer to meet and talk with like-minded people.

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of workshops, whatever the subject.

Take a look at your goals and create a solid action plan. I can't count the number of workshops I've attended--to say nothing of the ones I've given--and one thing they have in common is a flood of information. They provide far more information than anyone can act on immediately.

If you don't know what you're doing, you could end up wasting your time among the numerous details. I always chuckle when people at our workshops get so excited about the strategies they've learned that they want to implement them all.

I always recommend that they don't. In fact, it's critical that you narrow your focus.

Before you go to a workshop, decide on three main goals for your business--three areas that you want to improve or get started on. Then concentrate on getting what you need to make those goals a reality.

If you go in with a plan, you'll be able to take action immediately on what you learn.

And remember, you don't have to do everything all at once--or ever. Even implementing one or two of the most basic strategies can bring amazing results. My best advice to all online marketers is to focus on one thing at a time, do it well, then move on to the next strategy. That way you won't get overwhelmed, but you'll be sure to cover the basics.

Sure, listen to everything, take notes like crazy and get a million ideas. But concentrate on finding out everything you can that will help you take action on your three main goals.

Network your way to a set of new business partners and some great opportunities. One of the most gratifying things we see at our seminars is people with related businesses coming together and sharing information. Whether you're a newbie to the online world or you have an established, successful business, you can benefit from combining your skills with those of people you meet to create new products or services.

Here are some networking tips for workshops or any other events you might attend:

. Wear your name tag on your right side to provide an easy sight line to your name when shaking hands. And be sure to introduce yourself. Say your name clearly: "Hello, my name is Jane Smith. It's a pleasure to meet you."

. Describe who you are or what you do in 10 seconds or less, offer a business card and ask the other person for one of his or hers. And remember: Always keep your business cards handy, but don't deal them out impersonally.

. Sit and listen to learn. Start the conversation by asking questions: why people are there, what they hope to gain and how they found out about the event. Avoid monopolizing the conversation.

. Don't stay too long in one place. After eight or 10 minutes, excuse yourself politely and move on to meet other attendees.

. Once the event is over, your networking doesn't stop. Be sure to follow up with people you've met, keep in contact, share information and offer to help in any way you can. It's a great touch to send a written acknowledgement or "thank you" note to your networking contacts, too.

Remember, the most important part of networking is to treat it as an exchange of ideas, information and experience. Be generous in sharing your talents and knowledge, and always be respectful of those around you. You can easily generate thousands of dollars in increased sales by getting a second opinion from a seasoned internet business owner.

Starting and growing a business on the internet is like drinking from a fire hose. It's too much all at once. Seminars, workshops and conferences give you a concentrated dose of information straight from people who've been there and done that. And if you go in with three specific goals, you'll come out knowing what you need to do to accomplish them.

Make the most of the experience by talking to as many of the other attendees as possible. You never know when you might find a potential strategic partner or a new customer. And the most important thing is to take action when you get home.

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