This week I was lucky enough to be invited down to London for the seasonal La Redoute interiors dinner, which brings together both press and bloggers to showcase the latest collection from the French e-tailer. It was such a gorgeous evening, held at Carousel in Marylebone and with an epic table setting created by the dream team that is Jordan and Russell from 2LG Studio.
I’ll be honest, there was a little part of me that had a slight wobble in confidence when I received the invite – what the hell was I doing there, amongst bloggers such as Kate Watson-Smyth and Erica Davies?!
It can be really hard going to events like this if you’re not the most confident of people. I used to dread getting invites to events, especially those where I knew I wouldn’t know a soul. But my day job in publishing meant that very early on in my career I was thrown in at the deep end of solo networking. And over the years I feel like I’ve perfected a formula for feeling confident at events which might just help you too.
Do Your Research Prior To The Event
It’s the same old story but if you feel prepared then doing something out of your comfort zone doesn’t feel half as challenging. Prior to an event, I like to just drop the person who sent the invite a quick email to see which other bloggers/press will be attending. If you recognise someone on the list, give them a shoutout on Twitter and say how much you’re looking forward to meeting them there. That way you’ve already broken the ice. However, if you don’t know anyone, then double check names on social media and LinkedIn and feel familiar with faces (although I always have this fear that people won’t recognise me IRL because I’m partial to the odd filter or seven). It’s also a good idea to check someone’s actual name instead of saying “Hey, are you…erm, Apartment Number 4?” There have been so many times where I spot a familiar face but can only remember that persons damn Twitter handle. Awkward.
Approach With A Smile
I think it’s fair to say I’ve mastered the whole “approach with a smile” trick, without looking too much like a maniac – I hope. If your body language looks warm and open, then you will instantly attract fellow solo networkers. Don’t believe for a minute that everyone in the room has arrived with a plus one. It’s more than likely half the people in there are suffering from the same nervous thoughts and clammy palms as you so wipe those hands down and walk around the room. Look for friendly faces and gravitate towards them. Whatever you do, don’t stand in the corner, with your eyes down and play with your phone. I know it’s tempting but it won’t give the best first impression.
Ask Questions & Really Listen
There’s a lot to be said for people who ask genuine questions and who genuinely listen. People love to talk about themselves so why not take the pressure off you for a second and ask questions to the person you’ve approached. What do they do for a job? Are they local to the area? How did they hear about the event? Once the conversation has progressed, ask questions regarding what the person has told you – do they enjoy the industry they’re in now. How did they get into that role? Trust me, I love to talk about how I landed my job and how I’m juggling Apartment Number 4 alongside it, so when someone asks me those questions, I’m all in. Just be careful not to fire question after question and make it feel like an interview. Hopefully, that person will want to know more about you and before you know it, you’re having an actual grown-up conversation. Who’d have thunk it, hey?
Body Language Says Everything
Like a smile can make or break a first impression, the rest of your body language is super important. Walk into the room with your head high, don’t cross your arms, always shake someone’s hand and whatever you do, don’t keep scanning your eyes across the room for other people to talk to when you’re already in a conversation. I’ve had that done to me before and it really is the rudest thing. Hold a normal level of eye contact and if you want to break away from the conversation to continue networking (*cough, head to the buffet) then wait for a natural pause and say how nice it was to meet said person and politely move on.
Fake It Till You Make It Baby
I’m a massive believer in faking it till you make it, and I spent years faking confidence until one day it became so ingrained in how I acted that I realised…hold on, I actually am confident. I’m a weird mix of an introvert and an extrovert. I can hold a conversation with a room full of people and not be scared, but I’m also at my most comfortable when I’m in my own company at home. So when you’re preparing to go to your next event alone, just fake being confident and see how you get on. It’s a little weird at first and you feel like you’re putting on an act – you are – but sooner or later that confidence becomes your reality. Trust me, it works.
I honestly know how scary it can be to go to events completely on your lonesome. I’ve been there, plenty of times. But follow these tips and you’ll be feeling ready to hold a room in no time. Or at least say hello to someone you’ve never met before. The best tip I think out of all of the above has to be the pre-event prep. It helps massively to know what to expect in terms of guestlist beforehand and just a little detective work can help settle your nerves ever so slightly.
Do you get nervous going to events alone? What’s your best tip when you’re faced with solo networking?