Have your elevator talk ready and don't be afraid to jump into a conversation, writes Caroline Beans at the Naturejobs blog. Networking at a conference can be intimidating, especially as a new researcher, but Beans says to be prepared and not to worry about feeling awkward.
"The first time I approached a scientist at a social mixer, I waited for what felt like 20 minutes for her to turn from her colleague and acknowledge me," she writes. "I actually considered backing away slowly and then making a run for it. In reality, the wait was probably about 20 seconds. Ten minutes later she invited me to give my first guest lecture."
Beans adds that you can practice your elevator pitch ahead of time as well as how to make a smooth transition from introducing yourself and inquiring about the researcher's work into talking about your own.
Still, she adds, if you don't think joining a conversation in progress is for you, you can email people on the program ahead of time to set up a time to talk or ask another researcher that you already know to make introductions.