by Amy Doherty on 15 Jul 2015
We have all been there, an email notification appears on your phone – you have been invited to another networking event.
The event is perfect for you, perhaps there’s a speaker you really want to hear from or someone you’ve been hoping to meet has added their name to the attending list – even so, you’re not confident about spending time with new people and you don’t know anyone else who’s going.
Attending an event alone can do wonders for your social skills by removing the safety net of a companion and forcing you to initiate interactions with new people. So don’t miss out!
I used to be the person who’d find an excuse to turn down invites regularly only going to those events I felt I had to attend. Something changed in me about a year ago when I took the plunge and hosted my first 9others event and I’m now happily mingling with strangers at events and actually enjoying meeting new people.
There is no quick fix for a lack of confidence, I found putting myself in the same situation again and again as a kind of exposure therapy made the difference, and that I began to enjoy these events once the underlying causes of my anxiety had been tackled.
First, ask yourself why you’re not confident about attending events alone:
- Do you find it hard to approach new people and that you’re not good with the initial small talk?
- Do you have a fear of being rejected; that you don’t have anything worthwhile to offer and you’re worried you will embarrass yourself?
Let’s address these issues.
1. You can waste a lot of valuable networking time surveying a room for someone you think will be receptive to your contact. Remember, people at networking events want to be networked with!
Also remember that even though they are there to network a good portion of the attendees will be just as scared as you are to make the first move.
Talk to as many people as you can, if you see someone alone – go and talk to them, introduce yourself. Be the person making the first move. Each time you make the first move it will seem more natural and you will learn what works for you.
Approaching others is only half of the battle, you must also look approachable yourself. Smile, be careful of your body language (no slouching or crossed arms allowed), be generally well groomed and dressed appropriately (perhaps best to leave that Behemoth t-shirt for tomorrow), and most importantly – stay off your phone!
Now you’ve found a willing conversation partner what next? Assuming you’re at a business event, it is good manners to tell your new acquaintance who you work for, what your role in the company is and a very brief description of what the company does.
Asking questions is easier than answering questions so make sure to ask loads. Open questions are great, for example try asking someone ‘How do you feel about your current role?’ rather than ‘do you like your job?’ don’t let yes/no be an option.
Hopefully you and your new contact will find something interesting about each other’s careers or interests that will keep the conversation flowing nicely – if so, great! Take their details and make sure to follow up the next day with an email or tweet.
You’ve just expanded your network! If not, that’s fine too – be polite and attentive then move on to the next person. Your goal is to meet as many new people as you feel comfortable meeting so don’t worry about offending with short conversations, chances are the person you are talking with has a list of people they want to meet too.
Suitable topics for business small talk:
- The industry in which you work – new tech and gadgets and other business news
- Compliments if sincere can go down a treat, however make sure the compliment you are making is appropriate to the situation
- General topics such as holiday plans, books and films or even the weather or a local event
Warning: Be careful not to badmouth a company or person, firstly you don’t know who you’re talking to and secondly you don’t want to be seen as a negative person.
2) So you’re worried that no-one will want to talk to you? Or that you don’t have anything valuable to offer? Don’t be!
Everyone has something to offer, even if you’re a newbie to the industry your opinions and input are useful. People love to have the chance to run ideas, therefore as long as you’re open to listening and willing to answer questions about yourself and give honest yet tactful opinions people will want to talk with you.
It is acknowledged that not everyone at networking events is an expert in their field and that most people are there to learn from others. Don’t be perturbed if you meet someone who doesn’t seem to be that interested in you, just like life in general not all people click. Move on.
Some general tips:
Do your research – check out event attendees and make a mental note of anyone you’d like to talk to. Check out their work so you’ve something to talk about to get the ball rolling!
Think about what you want to gain from attending an event. How will you achieve your goal? (e.g finding a potential design agency, meeting a fellow marketing manager in a similar company) formulate a plan.
Remember to look approachable – no-one will talk to you if you look miserable/pre-occupied with your phone.
A positive, can-do attitude and an eagerness to offer advice and knowledge will make you a sure fire hit. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone you met at this event introduced you to others at the next one?
Be yourself – it’s tiring trying to keep up a facade. Just be the best version of you, the one that’s had enough sleep/food and is able to smile.
Free alcohol is great, especially if you need to loosen up a little but know your limits! Unless it’s that kind of event you should steer clear of full blown drunkenness!
Ease yourself in to networking – plan to stay at least an hour and don’t feel bad if you decide to leave when that hour is up. Next time you’ll stay for 2!
What tips do you have for attending events only our own? Share them below!