As much as I love my virtual world and bubble of supportive and like-minded bloggers and twitterers, I'm still a raging extrovert at heart who prefers personal interaction nine out of ten times. Remember people? Actual human beings, sometimes smelly and obnoxious yet superbly entertaining? Here are three things I've done this week to meet such creatures, and a virtual bonus.

Before I tell you about the first, attention must be paid to last Saturday night that I so thoroughly enjoyed going out with my girlfriends. The joy, the laughter, the dancing - my bruised toes bear proud witness, and yes, next time I'll wear something more comfortable. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven't yet been to participate in the Gay Bingo at the Rose Room in Dallas, I thoroughly recommend it. There's money, CDs, show tickets, T-shirts and lots more to be won, and to round the evening off, you can go dancing at The Round-up Saloon. Meeting lovely lovely Matt and his friends made our night, in case you read this, thanks again for a wonderful time! :-) If you're more into the traditional style, when was the last time you went out with friends to have a game night, or bowled?

The first recommendation I have (not only for extroverts, of course) is joining a Toastmasters club. Founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley in the 1920s, Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that has helped and continues to attract millions of men and women around the world to improve their communication and leadership skills. Not only do you learn how to give effective presentations, you also practice time management and team work skills. All this takes place in a friendly and supportive environment that welcomes people from all walks of life and levels of shyness. For $4.50 per month, joining a local club is the best possible affordable investment you can make in yourself. Find a club near you, or have your employer sponsor one, and visit as many meetings as you like before making the decision to join. More information here, and you're welcome to ask me, too.

Secondly, I participated in a free workshop held at a local hotel to learn more about how to do business with the Government. Now, the training topic you are interested in can be anything at all. How about photography, or Tango? The point I wanted to make is if you have a few hours to spare during the week or on the weekend or in the evenings that you don't want to spend alone on your couch, check your local listings for free courses that are offered at your colleges, google your topic of interest, and find groups you can join. Some websites to get you started are meetup.com and trainingmagevents.com. For both browsing and marketing purposes, in case you have your own business or want to start one, I invite you to search conferences that are held in your area on allconferences.com. They're organized by field and region, and who knows - you may even talk your boss into sponsoring your next weekend in Vegas.

Last but not least, my friend and role-model Yvonne invited me to another Forum of Expatriate Management (FEM) round table discussion which she facilitated this week. From a professional perspective of somebody eager to learn about the grassroots and backgrounds and corporate needs of their field, a forum like this one is the best place to sit, listen, and take notes. I've written about it before, and can only say the participants don't disappoint. Some new faces, some known ones, another yummie lunch sponsored, by the way, by this company that'll go on my resources list, and I cannot think of a better way to spend a couple of hours. Is there a professional forum available for people in your line of work? Is there anyone you can ask if you have a particular question regarding best practice or successful planning? Why not start with the q&a section on LinkedIn, where you can search and pose questions if you're registered. For those times that the virtual forum is no longer effective, I challenge you to offering a meeting in person in your offices, for example. It's a great way to informally get your hands on the pulse of your industry.

The virtual bonus is virtual, because in my case it's international and via teleconference. By all means, you can make yours an in-person event. It also works as something essential and not only as a premium: the mastermind group. As Napoleon Hill stated in his widely acclaimed bestseller "Think and Grow Rich: (It's) the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind." I was invited to one such group by fellow FIGT participants, and last week was our first tele-conference. That one hour of talking to five other like-minded expat coaches has left me energized, motivated and hopeful for the future of this business we're all in, so I thoroughly recommend sharing concerns, exchanging opinions, and providing support in a group with a focus that suits your situation.

Which one activity to aid your personal or professional growth are you going to commit to for the following week?

Til next time, have a good one!

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Image by Beverly Goodwin flickr, Creative Commons License

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