While I was studying at university, I made the decision to attend more events by myself. It’s not that I enjoyed being a loner, but whenever I did attend events with friends, I often left with the sense of ‘I could have got more out of that experience.’ Naturally, when we’re with people we know, we’re less incentivised to meet new people.
After making this decision, I joined the mailing list of several professional groups and became a member of The Northern Club.
I still remember my first outing as an Independent Event Goer (IEG). It was a start-up incubator community group. At this point, I had no intentions of starting a business, nor did I really know what the event was about. I was an imposter...but they didn’t know that.
As I crossed the threshold into the event, I made an intentional decision to walk and talk like I belonged. Good posture, chin up, purposeful strides, a faint smile and a relaxed expression. (It helped that I was feeling particularly fabulous in my black and white houndstooth jacket and red lippy).
IEG rule #1: Act as though you belong.
Very shortly afterwards, I learnt the second rule of being an IEG: don’t falter.
After reaching the centre of the room, I started to look around for an ‘in,’ but each conversation cluster seemed as impenetrable as the next. Maybe if I stand here looking out of place, someone might wave me over out of pity…
Catching myself, I snapped out of it and headed over to the closest group.
IEG rule #2: Don’t falter. Begin to assess your options the moment you arrive. Make a call and commit. Remember, you can always move onto another person/group later.
Now that I had chosen a group to insinuate myself into, I was faced with another challenge...what to say! My first sentence quickly revealed itself and it has, to this day, stuck as one of my favourite opening IEG lines. Are you ready?
“Hi, I don’t know many people here, so I thought I’d come up and introduce myself. I’m Miriam,” I said with a dazzling smile.
Immediately I was brought into the fold and introduced to the group.
IEG rule #3: Nail your opening line. Be honest about being an IEG. People will feel more inclined to include you and may introduce you to other event attendees.
At another event, I learnt the value of talking to a wide range of people.
This particular event was put on to celebrate International Women’s Day. There was a handful of speakers and the usual networking. The keynote was delivered by an international speaker, let’s call her Eloise Perry. Eloise was a U.S. based board-director, author, and advisor.
When she spoke, it was hard not to be impressed. She was awesome in the truest sense of the word. Entertaining, inspiring, and a total powerhouse!
After the event, I observed a gaggle (or should I say giggle) of women around Eloise. She was politely smiling and nodding while a girding posse fought for her attention.
From several feet away, I noticed Eloise’s glass was empty. Sidling up behind her (so as to not interrupt the monologue of one of the women) I asked Eloise quietly, “What are you having? I’ll get you a top-up.” She whispered back, “Sauvignon Blanc please!”
After getting her a glass of wine, I stood back again. There was no way I was going to compete with this fan club.
IEG rule #4: If you want to speak to the most important person in the room, diffrenciate yourself from other adoring fans and if you get the chance to speak to him/her, do something different (like getting them a drink). Respect their time and space.
Tim Ferris even suggests leaving a memento. He says,
“Just say, ‘Hey, I realise you’re super busy. You’ve got of people wanting to talk to you and you’re under a lot of pressure so here’s a [book/brochure] that I think will be of particular interest to you. Read it when you’re on the toilet or have an extra five minutes on the plane. Thanks so much.”’
Then walk away, and leave it at that.
This shows you know how to play the game.
Anyway, back to the event. So, instead of speaking to Eloise, I struck up a conversation with one of the few men at the event, Jim. We spoke about his previous career working with the U.S military and his recent shift to board advisory. Genuinely fascinating stuff.
We had been in conversation long enough for me to notice that the crowd around Eloise had started to thin. I could get a word in with her now...although I was really enjoying talking to Jim.
Shortly afterwards, Jim asked me, “What do you do Miriam?” I told him I had just started Naked Audience. That’s when he said, “Here, let me introduce you to Eloise.”
“Eloise? You mean Eloise Perry?”
“Yes. She’s my wife.”
IEG #5: Talk to a range of people. You never know who and/or what they know. Event organisers, assistants, speakers, support crews, attendees, wait-staff, you name it. Treat everyone with respect and genuine interest.
My last IEG rule comes after the actual event. It’s the follow-up.
By following rules 1-5, you will have no doubt met a lot of interesting people and enjoyed numerous stimulating conversations by the time the event comes to an end. Now, it’s time to consolidate those relationships.
After an event, take note of who you met and connect with them on the appropriate social platforms.
Email - great.
LinkedIn - great.
Instagram - maybe.
Facebook - probably not (too personal).
1-2 days after the event, flick them a brief message to say you enjoyed meeting them. Bonus points for making some reference to any research/enquiry you have done as a result of your conversation with them.
IEG Rule #6: Follow up with a brief message.
Remember, the reason for attending events by yourself is to meet new people and build relationships. This can’t happen with a one-off meet, so invest in those relationships.
Rule #1: Act as though you belong.
Rule #2: Don’t falter.
Rule #3: Nail your opening line.
Rule #4: If you want to speak to the most important person in the room, differentiate yourself.
Rule #5: Talk to a variety of people.
Rule #6: Follow up with a brief message.