I have a sustained curiosity for people. Because of this curiosity, I enjoy hearing why people do what they do, how they do it, and their experiences. Even with this curiosity, when I walk into a big event, I still get a feeling of panic about how to approach it. What will I talk about? Will I be interesting? Will I connect well?
Walking into a room full of people can be intimidating. With practice, at different types of events over the years, I’ve summarized a few things, below, that work well to maximize energy and minimize panic. These approaches have helped me connect, have lasting relationships, and guarantee interesting conversations. Use these for your next networking event, company meeting, or party.
Be yourself and focus on optimism
Before you walk into the room, think about a few things you’re really good at. This will help boost your confidence and shift your thoughts to the value you bring with you.
As part of our human nature, we often connect with other people around what’s missing or what’s wrong – for example, “the traffic on the way here was terrible!” – but I challenge you to keep complaints to a minimum. You most likely have a short window with the people you’re connecting with so what are the possibilities and opportunities you can focus on, rather than the negatives?
I used to take pride in being a realist and thought optimism was fake and inauthentic. When I realized this approach made me feel bad and kept me from connecting with others, I redefined optimism for myself in a way that would work with my values and beliefs. Now, I see optimism as hope and possibility and I have much stronger connections and conversations coming from this point of view.
Choose your intention for attending
Although it may not always feel like it, you have a choice to attend events. If you choose not to attend, there may be consequences that impact your decision on whether or not to attend. Either way, you have a choice. With your choice, you have the freedom to pick your intention for attending. This helps direct your focus on what type of people you want to attract and the conversations you want to have.
You may choose an open-ended intention such as, my intention for this event is to learn three new things. Or, you may be more focused – my intention for this event is to meet someone whose success I admire; I will ask her what the one thing is that she does consistently that helps her in her role.
Decide whether you’re willing to commit or not
We are fortunate to have many choices about what to attend and what not to attend. If there is an event that you’re not sure you want to commit to, give yourself a period of time to think about it and then set a cut-off date for when you will make your decision. If you decide to commit, commit and begin thinking about your intention for going.
When you don’t decide, it shows up in other areas of your life. It may show up as you being indecisive or it may attract people to you who are indecisive and non-committal. On the other hand, if you are decisive, it attracts the opposite.
Focus on making one connection
This changed my life and took me awhile to learn. I used to come home from events with a stack of business cards but very few connections. It was frustrating and left me feeling depleted.
Now, I focus on making one connection. I may not talk to this person the entire event but I make time to ask them questions and focus on learning about them. Not only has this helped me connect, it has helped me create new, meaningful friendships. I follow up with this person after the event and schedule a time to meet up with them again.
Have fun and relax
How cool is it that you were invited to be part of this event? They WANT you there because you mean something to someone. Open yourself up to possibility and ride the wave. Smile. Shake hands. Listen. Be curious. Laugh. Enjoy.