I wanted to call this post How Not to be Nervous at a Blogger Event - but then I realised that, for most of us not being nervous at all is an impossibility.
Everyone's nervous at events, from the speakers wondering if they'll dry up to the caterers wondering if anybody will like the food.
I have experienced some grim behaviour at networking events - people talking to me whilst simultaneously looking over my shoulder for someone more important; people taking out their phone to check their tweets whilst I'm talking to them; having everyone else in the vicinity apart from me invited to go on for drinks.
Yes, people can be ...erm...challenging at events. Perhaps it's because they're nervous, or simply ill-mannered. Who knows?
But you can't let the idiots win. You can't let the fear of how it could all go wrong stop you from engaging with great people and squeezing the most out of any event you attend.
So if we can't eliminate nerves entirely, how can we at least minimise them?
- Arrive early
This is the most important tip. When you arrive early at any event, the people there are either the organisers, sponsors or really keen beans, all of whom will be anxious for the event to succeed and will therefore be most open to chat. A room thatâ€™s packed full of people already deep in conversation is a much harder place to plunge into.
- Talk to other attendees online beforehand
Maybe make a plan to meet at the venue. DON'T say: You look so different to your profile pic because even if you mean it in a good way, your new friend will interpret it in a bad way and will be crying in the toilets within the hour.
- Stand by the door
When people first enter an event room, they invariably start looking around for someone to talk to. Like you they're afraid that they won't know anyone and no one will talk to them. So it's a good place to strike like a ninja. A Ninja of Blogchat.
- Wear a Whatsit
A Whatsit is something that you wear as a conversation opener, so people can easily ask you about it (by asking: What is it?). It could be your shoes, your hair colour, a slogan t shirt or an interesting necklace. NB if you are combining this with the Stand by the Door tip, don't make your Whatsit a tray of canapes as you may be mistaken for part of the catering team. Which is OK, but probably not your main intention when you booked a ticket for the event.
- Don't be afraid to be alone
Sometimes you have to just take a deep breath and take in your surroundings. It's OK to be alone in a busy room sometimes. Look around, meet people in the eye, smile and say hello.
- But don't bury your head in your smartphone
This is the great temptation when we're feeling nervous, to try and look busy and hide back in the online world where we're more comfortable. But if I see you on your smartphone then I'll assume you're busy and won't want to interrupt.
- Watch your caffeine intake
Some people are really sensitive to caffeine and find it can increase anxiety levels. If you're going to an event that you already suspect will make you nervous, give your anxiety levels a fighting chance by laying off the espressos.
- Notice who else is alone
Essentially, be the networker you wish everyone else was. Even if you're with a group of friends, keep your radar on for people who seem to be alone and look like they might want to chat. Welcome and you will be welcomed. Be kind, that never goes out of fashion.
- Remember that everybody's as nervous as you
Those people who look ultra composed and confident? Nervous The immaculately dressed person who looks like they just stepped out of a magazine? Bundle of nerves. The person who just looked right through you? Terrified, with bad eyesight. Me? Yes, I'm kind of nervous too.