We’ve all been there, done that: headed to an event or meetup only to gravitate to the people we know already. Whether cliquing up with colleagues or getting back in touch with old friends, we’ve all been guilty of sticking to what we already know, even at new events. This is definitely a normal human impulse–but is it destroying your event experience? That is, are your friends really your frenemies when it comes to events?
As we’ve said before, gaining knowledge is a huge part of events. But how will you gain knowledge if you don’t meet new people? It’s one thing to passively listen to presentations and absorb information. It’s another to actually debate ideas with people. Here are a few tactics for making sure your meeting experience creates new connections instead of just strengthening old ones:
1. Talk to at least one new person per session.
You don’t have to clasp every clammy palm at the event. But take a chance on at least one person per session you attend. Whether it’s an inane remark about the weather or an incisive comment about the session content, aim your sparkling personality at a new person and see what happens. The worst outcome is nothing; the best, a new friend or important contact.
2. Close the laptop.
Even if you’re taking notes, the laptop is a form of separating yourself from those around you and preventing connections. Plus, you know you’re not really taking notes–you’re checking Facebook and emailing with colleagues back at the office. Staying stuck inside the world of your laptop can feel safe, but it feels safe because it is a boundary protecting you from real interactions. So put the computer down–the table and phone, too!–and leave yourself open to in-person conversation, questions, and interactions while you’re at an event.
3. Sidle up to a speaker.
It can seem intimidating, and certainly speakers don’t always have time to talk to everyone at the event. But that makes you memorable if you do talk to them. No need to get confrontational–at minimum, complement them on a job well done, at most, engage them in discussion (if they’re willing) or ask for permission to contact them later. Again, at worst, the answer is no. At best, you have a close new contact on the speaking circuit in your industry.
There we have it: three simple ways to leave your friends in the dust and revolutionize the effectiveness of events. Are you trying these tactics, or do you have others of your own? What works best for you?
Image from Oni Press series Frenemy of the State.