This post originally appeared on the Sisarina blog.
You walk into an event where you plan to meet people.
You check-in at the front table.
You walk to the bar & order a drink.
You stand next to said drink & start praying.
You pray someone will come over & say hi.
You check your breath & your zipper. Hrm...
I'm right there with you. If I'm hosting, I'm talking to everyone. If I'm not, that "you" up there is me. We're all uncomfortable when we're out of our comfort zones. We don't want to be "that guy" interrupting a group of smiling, happy people chatting about their favorite TV show. We don't want to be the weird guy no one talks to. We also want to meet the people at the event. It's why we went!
Here's the secret:
EVERYONE ELSE is there to meet you.
At events I'm hosting, I tend to walk around in search of people standing next to the bar praying with a drink in their hand. But not every event has a hostess like myself, unfortunately. So, how do you get out of your comfort zone? Be yourself.
5 Ways to Be Yourself & Meet People
1. Wear your style.
Most networkers tell you to wear a business suit when you network. My suggestion is to wear something that fits your personality and allows you to keep from fidgeting. If your tie has been tied all day long, loosen it up. If you heels are killing you, bring flats. If you're more comfortable in jeans, add a suit jacket to dress them up.
The days of power suits are long gone, even in political DC, when it comes to networking. If you're the only one at the event in jeans, own it. You'll be remembered because you were rockin' them and everyone else was longing to be in theirs. Just make sure you're going to be confident walking up to anyone (CEO or intern) in whatever you're wearing.
2. Reword "So, what do you do?"
Humans should never be defined by their jobs. They have to talk about what they do all day every day. You probably don't want to talk just about your job either so lead the conversation. You can always talk about it later. Find a question that is easy for you to say when you introduce yourself, such as: "How was your weekend?" "How did you find out about this event?" "Do you tweet? What do you tweet about?"
3. Do your homework.
Read up on the organizers and the origins of the event. Check out who has been at the event before. Find out if there's a hashtag and see who is attending. Start interacting with them. If someone is speaking, check them out ahead of time. Have something to talk about.
4. Have a list of 3 things you can talk about.
Why would anyone want to talk about work after a long day? Come up with 3 things interesting to you that other people might like. The latest technology, a really interesting new blog, new local restaurants, current events, etc. Try to stay away from political and religious stuff at networking events. You'll always be in for opposing opinions.
5. Find the one alone with a drink in his hand.
At every networking event, there's always one guy or gal standing around either on their phone or stirring a drink by themselves. They typically look either lost or very certain they should be alone. Go say hi and ask them their reason for attending the event. You'll make a fast friend, even for just 5 minutes, and you'll both appreciate it.
Life is too short not to be yourself. Most networking events are too corporate & "good ol' boys club" for true relationship-building to happen. Find networking events that fit you and your style. If you wear jeans and a t-shirt to work, don't force yourself to put on a business suit to network. If you love events where people only pass out business cards, I'm happy to give you a list of them. There are events for everyone, go find yours!
Everyone has a calling in life. Melanie Spring was born to inspire others to dream bigger. As Chief Inspiration Officer of Sisarina, the DC-based brand strategy agency, Melanie only works with humans ready to set big business goals and create a realistic plan for accomplishing them. Along with her quirky crew of designers and developers, she focuses on helping non-profits and businesses to start living their brand. Melanie toured the US on the Live Your Brand Tour (www.liveyourbrandtour.com) collecting stories from businesses living their brand, which is now published in Entrepreneur Magazine. She now travels the US with talks on rocking your brand, your content, your sales, and your humans. Find out more at www.melaniespring.com and www.sisarina.com