I stood watching people shuffle in for the event, due to start in a couple of minutes. Some had smiles on their faces, probably anticipating the event and eager to listen to the speakers. Some others had rather serious expressions on their faces. Others looked nervous, as though they would lose their energy by being surrounded by other people. Yet, all these people had something in common. They were all members of the “smart phone generation”. And so, I wasn’t surprised to see that the people who arrived without a friend to engage them in conversation simply chose to whip out their smartphones and occupy themselves. Maybe Twitter. Possibly Instagram. Heads bowed, fingers flying over keypads. I sighed. And yes, I’m guilty of this as well. #TrueConfession
Why have we become more comfortable with our electronic gadgets than with other humans? Going for events, whether business events or weddings should go beyond being physically present. I find that connecting to the ‘soul’ of an event requires complete attention. Going a step further to connect with other people at that event adds to the richness of it all. Some of the most memorable events I’ve attended remain indelible in my mind, not just because of the words spoken, but most especially because of the conversations I had and new friends I made. Life is really about people and so it’s important that we see building relationships as a vital skill.
Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your next event, no matter how much of an introvert you are:
1.Set your intentions: Before leaving home, decide what you would like to achieve at the event. Would you like to make one new connection? Would you like to make contributions at the event to present yourself as an expert? Would you want to meet one of the speakers and make a connection? Deciding this beforehand can help your confidence level.
2 .Relax and be yourself: You don’t have to feel threatened by the idea of making new connections. It doesn’t require you to put on an act. It just requires you to practice the skills you’ve had since you were a toddler in nursery school –making connections- but on another level. Being genuinely interested in the other person, asking questions and listening are the basic tools you need.
3.Say hello and introduce yourself to the people right by you: If walking around seems daunting, you can get a boost by saying hello to the person/people at the registration stand or the people sitting on your left and right. Ask them what they do and ask questions about that. Don’t forget to talk about yourself as well! You just never know who’s sitting beside you and how the new connection being made could be mutually beneficial.
4. Let the friendship blossom after the event: This is the only way to actually get value from the connections you make at events. If not, you’ll end up with a bunch of business cards and no actual relationships. The first step is to send an ‘It was nice meeting you’ message. I typically like to send mine either later that evening or the next day. Sending it a month after might have the person racking their head trying to remember you. Connecting on social media is another next step. Through social media platforms, you can follow your new contact’s professional or business progress. You won’t become best friends with everyone you meet, but it’s a good step to take intentional steps towards developing profitable relationships.
How do you make the most of events you attend? How easy is it for you to strike up a converstion with strangers? Leave a comment below!