Stepping out of your normal routine to meet strangers can sound pretty daunting when put in that context. If you’ve ever found yourself at an event holding your bag & drink while staring at you cell phone, you’ll know what I mean. It seems like at every event there are people chatting, laughing and bouncing from group to group, and then there are the quieter ones looking around for someone to talk to.
The longer you seems to look around for someone to talk to, the more your nerves set in and you begin to feel as though attending the event was a big mistake. This happens when we begin disconnecting ourselves from the group- creating space both physically and mentally from everyone around us. As humans, we are wired for connection- whether that be one-on-one or in a group setting. The cautionary advice for networking is- don’t let yourself look at your phone for too long. By long, I mean more than a quick glance at your home screen.
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert we’ve all had moments where we find ourselves alone looking at the others chatting in groups. It doesn’t bring up good thoughts to see everyone else having fun except you- it came bring up some ugly old school-day insecurities about not fitting in.
Here are my top pro tips to getting you out of the corner and into the conversation quickly to maximize your networking time.
When you take time out of your evening to network, it can feel like a huge letdown if you can’t connect with someone quickly, aren’t meeting a lot of interesting people, or if you find people excusing themselves and you’re left there standing alone with your drink. What now?
Your networking mindset
Your mindset is tricky when you’re in a group setting- you know when you are the outlier in a larger room pretty easily. When you get into a good conversation, those insecurities tend to melt away pretty fast.
When you are alone at an event not talking to anyone, don’t allow the “I”m not interesting” fear to pop in. The question isn’t what’s wrong with you - it’s “who can I break the ice with?”. By focusing on your next move, you’re taking yourself from in your head, to action.
If you see a group of people laughing, approach the group and ask if you can join in- even if their backs are to you, they will open up and allow you to introduce yourself, and get to know everyone in the “circle” fairly quickly- BIG win if you are scanning for someone to have a one-on-one conversation after!
If you see one person who is at the bar ordering a drink, consider going up to the bar and starting the conversation there. If you aren’t a drinker- grab a soda. If you already have a drink- go up and grab a bar napkin, lime, or a straw. Chatting at the bar is a great way to introduce yourself to someone one-on-one if you shy away from the group conversations. They may invite you to walk over to their group if they are in one- politely accept and join in. Having someone introduce you or mention that they invited you in makes you intriguing to the group and they will be excited to hear more about you.
Invite people in subtly
When done right, however, you can make strangers your connections fairly quickly and step out of the uncomfortable hello to interesting acquaintance quickly. Don’t allow your posture or voice to deter people from approaching you as well. When you keep yourself in the corner on your phone, it’s difficult to make eye contact- and that is the quickest and easiest way to send someone a signal that you’re open to talking. Once eye contact is made, the smile comes next, then you open up verbal introductions.
Pro-tip: Remember to keep your phone interactions minimal when networking. People want to spend that time talking with you, not watching you on your phone- and when you are trying to make a good first impression- show them that they are important by keeping your attention solely on them (or in the group setting, the person who is talking). The best time to get out your phone is if you want to plug in someone’s contact details if they don’t have a business card, to broadcast on social media where you are (if you’re in a small biz), or you want to schedule time to follow up with someone. The second the phone comes out when you aren’t talking with someone- you could miss the eye contact and connection to start up the next conversation!
When you find yourself at your next event and looking around to start your first or next conversation, remember these tricks - they can help you move from stuck to moving quite quickly.
The tips to strike up conversations don’t end here- share your tips for how to overcome the standing in the corner of the room below!
Cheers to your career success,