⌚ 2 min read
It’s bound to happen, even if you’ve so far cleverly avoided showing up at networking, industry, and any other kind of event by yourself. Your plus one is going to cancel at some point… some point too late in the game where you still have to show up at the event (non-refundable tickets, anyone?). Cue anxiety.
Why do we feel so nervous when we’re at these types of events on our own?
The simple answer is that we are being pushed out of our comfort zone. Meeting and engaging with new people is well out of the bubble of familiarity we build for ourselves. Many people end up feeling stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable, triggering a fight or flight response which inhibits the ability to think rationally. And with a lack of rationality comes the all too common thought sequence of “I’m not smart/funny/attractive/interesting enough” to talk to these people.
3 Steps to Navigate an Event Solo
Obviously that’s not the mindframe you want to be in when navigating an event alone. Try out these tips to make the event more enjoyable and seize any networking opportunity that may present itself.
Set goals - Yes, setting goals when socializing might seem a little fake and contrived, but it’s an absolute must to keep you from retreating into a corner. Goals like meeting four new people and having two meaningful conversations work extremely well in keeping you engaged with others.
Position yourself - Rule number one: do not glue yourself to your phone! Make eye contact and gravitate towards the center of the room. When you’re alone at an event, it’s common to stay along the outskirts of the crowd, but that makes it hard for others to approach you and may leave the impression that you don’t want to make any contact.
Make a move - Probably the worst thing about showing up solo is feeling like everyone else knows each other already, but that’s almost certainly never the case. Glance around the room and find a group that seems open to having others join in. Tell-tale signs are that the group is standing a bit further apart and people are looking around. When there is a lull in the conversation, jump in with phrases like “I couldn’t help overhearing…” or “Do you mind if I join?”
While the whole experience can be intimidating, remember that everyone is there for the same reason - to socialize! Once you get over your initial anxiety, you’ll see that there is nothing to fear and that you have complete control over your experience.