Going to a networking event alone can feel incredibly intimidating and awkward. You may find yourself scrunched in the corner, squeezing a bottle of water, fidgeting with your name tag and wondering how to strike up conversation with a room full of strangers. But once you’ve checked in and entered the venue, you can try any or all of these ten easy ways to strike up a conversation and make the most out of a networking event you courageously attended alone.
1. Jump right in
The longer you wait to say hello to someone and start a conversation, the longer you’ll have to psych yourself out. Even if the initial entrance into the conversation is abrupt, approach a group of people as soon as you arrive and introduce yourself. Try not to hesitate or promise yourself you’ll do it after you get a drink or take a stroll around the room.
2. Start with a simple fact
If you’re unsure how to start the conversation, begin with something simple that you know very well: your own name. Walking up to a group of people saying, “Hi, I’m ____,” is a flawless and easy way to start a conversation. People will automatically introduce themselves in turn and you can continue the conversation from there.
3. Talk about the basics
If you’re not sure how to start a conversation, pick something universal and relatable to the people there. Comments about the weather, the venue, or even the atmosphere will kick off a few seconds of light conversation, allowing you to think of something to ask or say next.
Though showing up at a networking event alone may sound intimidating, it can be the best way to go.
4. Be honest about your situation
You shouldn’t feel awkward or nervous that you came to the networking event alone. Instead, use this as a way to strike up conversation. Be honest with the people you’re chatting with and say, “I don’t know many people in the industry, so I decided to come to this event.” Or “All of my industry friends are home watching House of Cards, so I decided to come to this event alone.”
5. Ask them to speak first
If you’re nervous about starting a conversation, deflect that nervous energy by asking other people questions about themselves. Have them tell you more about what they do and some of their future career goals. From there, you can provide them with advice or even introduce them to other people in the industry who could help them.
6. Pay attention to your facial expressions and body language
You might not realize what huge factors your facial expressions and body language can be in determining whether people will approach you. Be mindful that you have a friendly smile on your face and that your arms are relaxed at your sides and not crossed.
7. Do some homework
Most people feel more relaxed when they’re well prepared. Do a little research before the event about the people who might be there. If the event is held by an industry group or association, you could look at their website and see what topics their members are interested in.
8. Stand near the registration table
The registration table is a great place to stand at the start of the event. Usually after people register, they scan the room to decide where to go next and whom to speak to first. It’s a great location to meet new people before you enter the room and get lost in the crowd.
9. Cozy up to the food table
This may sound funny, but when people are grabbing food from the buffet or appetizer table, they are more inclined to strike up a natural and casual conversation.
10. Ask for the kind of help you need
Come to the networking event with goals in mind, whether it’s to connect with people in your industry or meet people from a new industry you don’t know much about. Start conversations with this goal in mind throughout the event.
Though showing up at a networking event alone may sound intimidating, it can be the best way to go. When you attend with a colleague or friend you already know, the two of you may end up standing in the corner, eyeing the room the entire time. Going solo forces you to talk to new people so you’ll make more contacts and get more out of the event.
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