Don't be overly concerned about other people's potential reactions to your new beard. If you have a good beard, most people will probably react favorably, possibly much more favorably than you would have ever anticipated. So relax and enjoy the experience.
When starting to let your beard grow, just stop shaving -- completely. Do not shave at all for at least the first four weeks of growth. One of the most common errors is to attempt to start shaping or sculpting the beard too early in the process. Even if you are just planning to grow a "Van Dyke" or goatee, you should let everything grow for the first four weeks. WHY let your beard grow for four weeks before you start to shape it -- even if you are just growing a goatee? If you don't wait, you might cut off more than you really wanted. Also, you might not have thought about going for the striking effect of an oversized goatee. You can always trim it down to a smaller size later.
After four weeks, you can start shaping the beard. Usually, you'll want to define a "neck line" along the bottom of your beard around the neck. This is probably best done by a professional barber or stylist. The hard part may be finding one who has a lot of experience in beard styling.