Networking can be difficult if you are an introvert, and when you are at a conference with a gazillion people it can be overwhelming. I always get super nervous before conferences, but I have come up with a few tricks that help me get through it and make real connections that last long after the conference.
Connect with people BEFORE the conference.
Look up the conference hashtag and spend some time before the conference connecting with people on social media. You don’t have to keep it just online either. Invite attendees that live near you out to lunch and get to know each other before the conference. That way when you get to the conference you will know at least a couple of people and won’t feel so lost.
Use Facebook to your advantage.
Some conferences have a Facebook group that you can join. I know Alt Summit and Yellow Conference create a group for attendees. It's awesome because you get to connect with people, find out where they are from, get introduced to their blogs and see where they are on social media. You can also arrange to share rooms, rides and tips from people who have already attended the conference.
If the conference you are attending doesn't have a Facebook group create one! You will be so happy you did.
This might seem hard, but you just have to do it! I guarantee there are a lot of people who are just as nervous as you and you can rally them all together.
The last conference I attended, I invited people to my hotel room for a cocktail hour via the Facebook group. The people that showed up were flying solo and they were so grateful to be able to connect in a smaller setting. I was, too! A couple of the ladies I met during the cocktail hour became my friends and we hung out the whole conference.
Sit at a table with people you don’t know.
Okay, don’t have an anxiety attack now. I know it’s uncomfortable and really, really hard to get out of your comfort zone, but you will be so happy you did. People are nice and you won’t be ignored.
Wear some heels and red lipstick.
Sooo... this isn’t the most practical advice, but seriously dress in a way that makes you feel both confident and comfortable. For me, when I put on red lipstick I feel like a million bucks so that’s what I do.
This is business, so get down to business.
If you don’t know what to say, go ahead and ask if you can exchange business cards. This breaks the ice and allows you to start a conversation about what you do and what the other person does. Easy peasy, right?
You have so totally got this! Take deep breaths, give yourself pep talks, and go out and get ‘em!