Going to networking events can be daunting when everyone is in the same industry or works for the same company or even knows each other from previous events.
Grouping can occur naturally at networking events and it can be difficult if you arrive and want to start mixing and mingling and everyone is chatting it up in groups of 2 or more.
What do you do?
Do you wait until someone ends up alone or walks away?
Do you wait until someone approaches you?
These are the questions that I want to address today.
When there is a group of people at an event that you want to speak to, let’s talk about how to get the ball rolling and the party started.
First and foremost, you do not want to be aggressive or super awkward when approaching a group of people who you do not know. Don’t worry if you feel you are naturally super awkward- I’ve got you. Keep reading.
First things first: Act normal (whatever that means for you) and be yourself.
You have to act as casual, composed and interested as possible. Seem genuinely interested in what the person speaking is saying.
If it all of a sudden gets quiet when you walk up to the group and you don’t know what to say- just smile and turn to one of the people in the group and introduce yourself or introduce yourself to the whole group and raise your glass or do a small wave.
You’ll find your flow after some time and a little practice.
If you feel awkward approaching a group, pretend you know someone in the group or that your best friend ever is on their way or in the bathroom and remind yourself it’s going to be okay regardless of what happens in that moment.
I have talked a bit about feeling awkward and feeling uneasy about approaching people, and if you need tips on that then read that blog or watch the video on YouTube because I want you to feel as confident as possible when you go to these events.
When you approach a group and are waiting for people to stop talking so you can say something- be patient and be polite.
Jump in when the moment seems right and speak up for yourself!
Agree or give your experience on that topic, or laugh or say something helpful. It is always fun to join in because you don’t have to lead the conversation like you might in a 1:1 situation.
Meeting groups of people is also great because you get to explain to a bunch of folks all at once what you do- that is more exposure with less time spent telling everyone individually that you do x,y, or z. I know it might seem crazy, but it really is a time saver and gets the conversation flowing way faster.
If someone in the group is interested or seems interested, make a note and talk to them 1:1 later or exchange information later to set up a time to speak on the phone.
Always do your best to listen more and speak less when you want to really build relationships with folks. Listening can ultimately be the key to your success at events like these.
You hear Jim talk about his daughter who’s in middle school and how she’s doing well and is considering colleges in San Francisco and that’s your hometown. Boom! Now you have something to talk to Jim about later and you can build your conversation on that and maybe even try to help with some San Francisco tips and words of advice from a native.
People always ask me how to connect with people they don’t know and it really comes down to finding a similarity or common ground with someone. Finding common ground is a major key when networking because it makes the conversation flow (way less awkward moments!) and it builds a know/like/trust factor that all of us want to give off and pick up.
If you are nervous to just start walking into groups randomly at events and speaking, try doing it and just listening politely and watching everyone else interact.
Watching first and jumping in later can be helpful because typically someone will direct a question to you and initiate the conversation for you. Receptive people will be aware that you haven’t spoken or given your 2 cents on a topic and will normally ask you something. Maybe they’ll ask your name or ask what you think and that is your open door to start chatting a bit!
Work your way up and keep moving towards being confident in approaching people.
It might give you butterflies, it might make you nervous, it might even make your palms sweaty, but the payoff is great and once you’re in the middle of a fantastic conversation with someone super smart or really funny, you won’t be thinking about those butterflies or awkward jitters anymore.
If you want to start at a more basic level and are into purely observing, grab a glass of water or a nice martini and try and post up and watch other folks mixing and mingling. Do a good job watching because if you’re looking approachable and friendly, someone is bound to come over and start talking to you after a bit.
Watching how other people interact and join/leave groups can be helpful and can sometimes boost you into feeling more confident in doing it yourself.
If the people seem friendly and open, what’s the harm in trying? Right?
Approaching group of people, although it may seem daunting, is a totally viable option for meeting people quickly and for expanding your network at a rapid pace.
I have total faith in you and know that you’ll be working the next networking event you go to because it’s all about you, your personality, and your ability to connect with people wherever they’re at.
If you think you need help networking and boosting your confidence – don’t hesitate to reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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