I recently posted on my social media that I went to the UB young alumni networking event at the Rusty Nickel, and how I had never been there. A few people messaged me and asked if I went alone and I said yes! They asked how do you do that and actually mingle without feeling nervous and sick to your stomach? Here are my best tips!
Though having a friend support you and keep you company at an event is good, sometimes it’s just not feasible. Don’t skip an event just because there is no one to go with you. There are also benefits to going alone – you can make the most of your time while you’re there since you make all the decisions. You WILL have to put yourself out there. And that’s good… practice makes it easier!
1) If you don’t think you’ll know anyone at the event, befriend the event organizer! I went to the Rusty Nickel event only knowing the event organizer. On Eventbrite links, under the event title it will say “By NAME.” It’s worked for me to reach out to this person ahead of time on LinkedIn, or through an email directly if I can find their email address. It’s as easy as “Thanks for organizing XYZ event. Looking forward to seeing you there!” This is memorable. Then, when you walk in the door and see that person, you can introduce yourself and say you sent them a message and you’re already connected on LinkedIn. They’ll remember you. Spend a couple minutes chatting with them about the event and what they recommend, if you can. Ask if there’s anyone else there that they recommend chatting with. They may point someone out to you. Then you have someone to approach, and an intro because the organizer recommended the two of you connect.
2) If there’s a registration table, this is AWESOME. Introduce yourself to the people at the registration table checking you in. Make your name tag. I usually say hi to the other people waiting in line to check in or who are at the table making name tags with me. Remember… this is a networking event! No one should think it’s odd you say hello. Something as simple as turning to the person in line next to you with a smile and saying “I’m really looking forward to this” Or “I’m so happy to be here.” You’ll almost always get a positive response. Next step, introduce yourself.
3) If there’s a speaker, get a seat in the front. Be engaged and pay attention. Go up to the speaker afterwards to introduce yourself and mention something you liked about the event. Now if you ever reach out again in the future, you can say you met them at XYZ event! The other people that also sit next to you in the front are going to be good people to meet. They likely have some mutual interest – the speaker, the topic, etc.
4) Try to make other connections online first too if you can. On most of the events I attend, it shows a list of people who have registered. Don’t be afraid to send a connection request and add a note saying you noticed they’re also attending the event and would like to add them to your network. This is NOT weird! I’ve only gotten positive responses from sending these types of connection requests. But they have to be genuine! Exchange a few messages on what you’re looking forward to at the event. Now when you show up, you have a friend and someone you recognize.
5) If in doubt, head for the bar. If there is one! I made a new friend once at an event because we both ordered the sour beer. Usually, I don’t meet many people who like sours so that was an instant conversation starter. Try and notice something in common with the people around you. It’s worked for me to start a conversation with, “Oh did you get the new iPhone too? I love XYZ feature. What do you think?” Or “I love your sweater, where did you get it?” Then introduce yourself. This breaks the ice and it’s less awkward then just walking up to someone, extending your hand and saying “Hi I’m NAME”
6) Once you’ve made a couple initial interactions, use them to your advantage! Make sure to mention what you do and why you’re there. (It’s hard to get a lot out of an event if you don’t have a goal/reason for being there) After making a new friend at the Rusty Nickel, we parted ways to chat with other people. He tapped me on the shoulder about an hour later and said “Hey, I met someone else in HR. Maybe you two would like to meet?” More new people to talk to! Yay!
7) Remember to make many mental notes so you can send LinkedIn requests later. If it’s appropriate (usually is at most of the events I attend) people get out their phones and request/accept each other right there before moving on to the next conversation. “Looking forward to staying connected!” I’ve met some people at events who don’t use LinkedIn, and that’s cool too. Still a great conversation starter. “Why not? What do you use to stay connected or find out about events?” My favorite is when I get the opportunity to tell someone about how I use LinkedIn even when I’m not job searching and their mind is blown. I love inviting more professionals to be active on the platform!
I hope this works for you too! Happy networking!