You have just registered to attend an event and you’re excited to meet new people, maybe visit a new city and learn some great innovative content.
If you are attending the event by yourself, however, it can be a very overwhelming experience, especially if you are an introvert. Know that you are not alone. There are many other attendees that are also by themselves and likely feel the same way. If you are open to the possibility of making new connections you might attend the event alone but not actually be alone while you are there. In some instances it may actually be better to attend an event alone, you are more open and likely to engage in meaningful conversations that result in real connections.
Say Hello. Yes, it sounds simple, but breaking the ice and saying hello can be very daunting when you are in an unfamiliar place. If you are able to collect yourself and make that first step, it opens the opportunity to learn, and connect with someone new. If the other person does not engage in dialogue, that’s okay, don’t feel discouraged, not every opportunity is a good match. Some people prefer to attend events alone.
Have a goal: Be prepared before you attend the event. Outline what you want to accomplish, and set a key objective on what you hope to take away. Your goal could be to come back with the business lead, supplier partnership, LinkedIn connection, operational advice, or a new friend.
There is a great quote from John Wooden that reads “When opportunity comes it’s too late to prepare”. If you modify your perspective to view every connection as an opportunity then making sure you are prepared to get the most out of your encounters will help you move closer to your goal. For example, if your goal is a new business lead, have an opening statement prepared to help shape your dialogue and lead the conversation in the right direction. Understanding and knowing where you want to go in your conversations can make the discussion more engaging for the other person.
Use lineups to your advantage. From the registration counter to keynote sessions, to coffee lines, most people are looking to entertain themselves while they wait. Lines are a great way to engage in a start-up conversation since you already have something in common: waiting. Based on the time of day you can speak about the event so far and engage on what you are looking forward to seeing.
Meals and Breaks. Opening night receptions and lunch breaks are great chances to make connections. Food brings people together, it’s also a great way to energize and have an undistracted conversation. It can be isolating to eat alone, try sitting at a table that is partially full, you can always open the conversation with “Is this seat taken?”
Be confident. Take control of your attitude and confidence. Shape your appearance and body language so you are more confident when approaching situations. If you exuberate confidence, you are also sending a message to other single attendees to engage with you. Dressing for success will help you achieve success in your objective. Confidence is just as important as ability. Fear of failure can be a hindering contribution to being confident and making connections so think positive!
Join Networking Groups. Many events make it easy to connect with other attendees through technology and networking labs. You can usually find information on how to join through the event website or in the itinerary pamphlet. Using social media to follow, and tweet aspects of the event can create a more comfortable environment for connecting with other attendees when you know their standpoint.
Attending an event alone can pose many opportunities, and it’s a great chance to get away from your everyday environment to experience something new. Whatever your objective, understand that some attendees are looking to make connections. If you are attending an event alone and are not going with the purpose of connecting, that’s okay too. Ultimately, we are all there to have a great time!