You have been selected by your company to go to an event! Being the chosen one is awesome because you get to meet new people, learn new things and hopefully get to take a little time in to enjoy the city. But attending an event alone can be downright intimidating – especially if you’re an introvert. The good news is that people go to these events to meet strangers, so you’re in the same position as everyone else.
I faced that fear many years back attending a conference for a company to train on a new product. I knew it would be difficult terrain for me even though I’m a bit extroverted. However, I knew I did want to wade my days without connecting to anyone, withdrawn and nervous.
There are lots of things you can do to make being a lone wolf much more enjoyable. Below are some of my favorite things to do when flying solo at a conference.
10 Tips When Attending an Event Alone
- Lines can be a Blessing in Disguise – At many conferences you are going to be waiting in line for something, whether it be coffee, your badge or to get into a session. During these down times, most people are looking for ways to entertain themselves. Lines give you an easy way to strike up a conversation.
- Do the Legwork – Just like you wouldn’t leave home to attend an event without your business cards, you shouldn’t leave for an event without defining your goals. Are you looking to make a particular connection? Is there an industry question you need to be answered? Give yourself clear objectives so you can decide how to act with purpose. It’s also a good idea to review your past work, some of your accomplishments, and the elevator pitch for your company.
- Tweet and Join Groups – Remember you are not the only person attending an event alone! Often many people are talking about the event with the conference’s hashtag or geotag. Reading posts on the hashtag helps you scout out potential connections, and if you’re sharing content regularly on the hashtag, you can become a familiar face to others. Additionally, many events have a solo hashtag, like #eventnamesolo. Keep an eye out for these before and during the conference.
- Bars and Food – Many people travel to the bar or food areas at least a few times during a conference. If it is a large event, you might eat lunch at the event and sit with strangers. These locations are spots where you can start a conversation. It’s easy to be able to talk about the food, recommend a drink or snack option, and then proceed to introduce yourself. Whether or not you’re drinking, it’s always a great idea to position yourself at the edge of the bar.
- Looking Good Means, You Feel Good – Dressing for success is a real thing and can make you more successful, according to research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. For some people that may be a well-fitting shirt in a color you love. For others, that’s a blazer, full suit or your favorite t-shirt. Wear whatever makes you feel secure, confident, and self-assured. Check out StitchFix if you need some new favorites in your closet.
- Scope Out a “Me” Place – Most conferences go from morning until late at night, and for a couple of days, so you’ll want to scope out a place to recoup from sessions. At times you can make it back to your hotel room to refresh, but on other occasions, your hotel could be too far from the conference. Find a quiet couch in the hotel that nobody else has found or tuck away to charge your phone. Find a place you like to call home when you get a few minutes in between sessions to freshen up, eat a quick snack, and relax for a bit.
- Lean into Ties – Do you have someone you know in the city? Are you a part of an industry group where others might be attending the same event? It never hurts to ask others if they are going to the same event. It’s also an excellent way to get tips from people who have attended in the past.
- Speak to the Speakers/Vendors – Even if it’s intimidating, gather up the courage to talk to the speakers that made an impact on you. Trust me. They’re just people, and they’re there because they want to speak with attendees. Besides, it will probably be a very rewarding experience.
- Don’t Work the Room – Engage – Don’t try to meet as many people as possible in a room, instead focus on making just a few solid connections. Also, don’t hand out your business cards to everyone you meet without them asking. If you haven’t built enough rapport with someone to encourage them to ask for your card, don’t offer one. Keep eye contact with your conversation partner. Small cues go a long way towards making a stranger feel like you care, which helps you to build rapport and trust.
- Enjoy the Alone Time – If the whole networking thing isn’t up your alley, you should take the time to enjoy yourself in a new place. Traveling alone means you can do whatever you want in your free time without consulting anyone else. Hit up the hippest restaurant in the area, be a tourist and tour a nearby attraction, or relax in your hotel room. When you’re traveling alone, you get to call the shots.
The biggest piece of advice is to enjoy yourself, relax and don’t spread yourself too thin. Make sure to take notes, so that you can come back from your event and share all you learned with your co-workers. Also, take notes on business cards of those you meet. That way you can write a more personal message to them when you connect on LinkedIn.
Now you’re prepared to rock your next networking event and hopefully build some meaningful relationships in the process. Attending an event alone can be fun!