I’ll be honest, I kind of hate the word networking – what I really mean here is attending events and meeting strangers. But ‘An anxious gal’s guide to attending events and meeting strangers’ didn’t work so well as a title.
You all know the events I mean though. Perhaps they are work events, maybe you’re going to blogging conference or Instagram meet-up. Whatever it is, if the idea of walking into a room of strangers scares you as much as it does me, hopefully this post will help.
I’ve pushed myself in this aspect a lot more recently and though I still find it nerve wracking – I know I always end up enjoying myself and come away feeling good, so find it a lot easier.
For me, the fear is more in the anticipation than anything else.
Usually, once I start talking to someone, I warm up and relax. To help me get through those initial nerves, I’ve come up with a few steps I always do to help me prepare, so I thought I would share them with you too.
Reach out to people beforehand (if possible)
If there is a Facebook group, an events page or even a hashtag for the event you’re going to, see if you can reach out to anyone beforehand. You can start conversations and even arrange to travel with someone, or meet them outside the venue to make the whole process a little less scary.
Plan the logistics
This is the most important bit for me! When I was preparing for Blogtacular this year, I had about two pages of notes detailing the various logistics (there was an overnight stay involved and four locations to navigate).
Think about what trains/routes you’ll need to take and always allow yourself more time than necessary, just in case of delays or if walking somewhere takes longer than Google maps told you.
Having some buffer time means you don’t have to rush and can maybe even… enjoy the journey. If you get there way too early, just find a nearby cafe or bar to sit in – I often arrive places early and find a seat wherever to kill the time before the event starts, this is so much better than arriving late and flustered.
Plan your outfit and what you need to take
Figuring out what to wear in good time before the event relieves so much stress. No last minute hunting in the depths of your wardrobe for a pair of shoes that have apparently disappeared into the abyss.
If you need to print out tickets, download any apps or anything else, do this ahead of time too and put everything together so packing before the event is quick and painless.
Have some conversation starters ready to go
Chances are you’ll have something in common with the other people at the event, so this is always a great way to get conversation going. And if not – even better, you get to start from scratch and ask genuine questions.
If you’re walking in alone, don’t be afraid to walk up to a group and say “Hiya, would it be OK if I joined you? I just arrived and I don’t know anybody, my name’s…”.
People are (generally) nice and it’s highly unlikely anyone would say “no”. Some other conversation starters I’ve heard others use and plan to steal in the future are:
- “What are you working on at the moment?” (far more interesting than the usual “What do you do?”)
- “What made you get into X?” (blogging/PR/other career)
- “Tell me what you love about X” (blogging/PR/other career)
Meditate on-route (unless you’re driving, obvs)
If you can, try and squeeze in some meditation or breathing exercises on your way. This can help ease physical symptoms of anxiety and generally calm you down a little. I love using the Relax Lite app for breathing exercises or Headspace for some mindfulness meditation.
Listen to calming music
If breathing/meditation isn’t your bag, put on some relaxing music to calm you down. OR, if you find it works better, play some upbeat, energetic music to get pumped up.
Tell yourself you’re excited
Being anxious and being excited feel very similar physiologically. A technique called ‘anxiety reappraisal’ basically involves you telling yourself that instead of being nervous about something, you’re excited. Sounds simple, but it supposedly helps – worth a shot right?
Pause before you go in
Take a minute before you go in to breathe deep. Remind yourself that the people in there are just people… and they’re probably nervous as hell too. Go in with curiosity and challenge yourself to find out about as many different people as you can. Get them to talk about themselves and be genuinely interested – people will remember that.
And finally, take breaks! Steal yourself away for 10 minutes for a breather. Go outside, hide in the toilets, anything you need to do to recharge a little.
Don’t give up
Even if you have a bad experience, or feel like it went badly, try not to give up. These things take practise and the more you do them (even if it doesn’t feel like it initially) the less nerve-wracking they’ll become.
I feel like events and in-person meetings are having a real moment. It’s like we’re all rebelling the online life, determined to find that human to human connection you can only get in real life. Would you agree?
As we’re talking about pushing through fears in this blog, I thought I’d quickly mention this month’s Blue Jay Monthly Musings. On the last Sunday of every month I pick a subject and write about it, offer up some resources on it, suggest an activity around it and finally create a downloadable PDF with more tips.
This month I’ve decided to tackle fear, courage and pushing through self-doubt, because training to be a coach has brought all of these things up for me. There’s some brutal honesty in there, lots of helpful resources and a downloadable all about recognising and reframing fear.
If you haven’t subscribed yet and want in, please subscribe before this Sunday (29th July). As a welcome present, you’ll also get my 12-page guide on self-acceptance, self-love and confidence.
I’m pretty proud of my newsletters and pour a lot of love into them, so I’m excited to reach more people in this way, and of course if you have a fab newsletter you think I would love, leave the details in the comments section and I’ll check it out!
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