Enjoying yourself at large events is an acquired taste for a lot of people, including me. I’d much rather be at a small event. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for networking at the big events that draw top talent. Sometimes you simply have to attend one because it’s part of your job. These tips are guaranteed to help you benefit and enjoy your next big event.
1. Recognize in advance the big benefits.
Rather than argue about how such gatherings are like meat markets, or other unattractive analogies, realize that it’s good for you. You might even meet a Big Fish or make a cool new friend, but even if you don’t, you’re definitely building visibility and practicing your networking skills.
Expect a positive outcome and that’s precisely what you’ll experience.
2. Eat before you go.
While positioning yourself around the buffet table is a good tactic for connecting with people, it’s better if you’re not ravenous, or suffering from low blood sugar. Another reason, both for standing near the food and for eating beforehand is that when you eat, your endorphin levels rise which puts you in a better mood. (And the same thing is happening to the people who are eating at the buffet.)
Find out as much as you can about who will be there, how many people are expected, which companies will be represented, where are the attendees coming from. Not only does doing your homework raise your confidence level, it’s easier to make interesting conversation when you’re well informed.
Another thing to study before you go is the news headlines. Come up with 3 newsworthy events you’d feel comfortable discussing.
4. Wear something conversational.
I have a business outfit that’s quite brightly colored; in fact the jacket is nearly neon. So it’s easy for me to joke about leaving my orange safety vest at home. Wear something that provokes comments — like a funny tie or an eye-catching pin. Make sure everything fits properly and that it’s comfortable.
5. Approach people who are standing alone.
They will be eternally grateful. You pretend to be the host and help the other person feel comfortable. Then always have an exit strategy up your sleeve should you want to end that conversation to speak with someone else. One way to exit gracefully is to introduce the other person, or simply tell them that you see someone you really need to talk to (even if you don’t know quite who that person is.)
What’s your favorite strategy for enjoying big events?