Enjoying yourself at certain events, say those with more than 10 people in attendance, is an acquired taste for a lot of people. I’d much rather be at a small event, or actually home reading a book. Nevertheless, it’s the big events that draw top talent and generate so much excitement. It also gives you something to talk about b
ack at the office. Or on a sales call. Sometimes you simply have to attend one because it’s part of your job. These tips are guaranteed to help you really benefit from and truly enjoy your next big event.
1. Recognize in advance the big benefits. (So you are motivated and have a reasonably positive attitude.)
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.
You don’t have to stay forever either. You can give yourself a time limit or decide once you’ve spoken to 4 people, you’re done.
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.)
3. Do your homework.
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. Plus, you’re sure to really impress the others who didn’t read up like you did. That’s always fun.
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.
An interesting watch also works. My son has a pocket watch that’s always a good conversation piece.
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.)
You are not the only one at the huge event who feels terribly out of place. Go on and ease someone else’s anxiety and you’ll forget about your own.
The trick is to go to the Overwhelming Event with a plan, and even if you don’t actually stick to it, you’ll come across as someone who has it all together. (No one has to know that you’ve got a nice bottle of Prosecco waiting for you once you’ve completed your mission.)