When you first join the chamber, it's exciting. You know it is going to make a difference for your business. You see other people making it work for them. You get the chance to make a difference in the community you love.
... But, you've got to do it alone.
That's when the anxiety sets in. You suddenly think about the cocktail parties, the welcome receptions, the lunch meetings -- any time it's awkward to be alone -- and suddenly, joining doesn't feel so exciting after all.
The good news is there are lots of things you can do to make being a lone wolf much more enjoyable. Below are some suggestions to make it easier and more fun, because you can only get out what you put in.
1) Wear an outfit that instills confidence.
Turns out that dressing for success is a real thing. According to research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, wearing clothing associated with certain professional qualities can actually make you more successful. For some people that may be a well-fitting shirt in a color you love. For others, that's a blazer or full suit. And for others still, it might be a classic startup tee.
Wear whatever makes you feel most confident in the setting you'll be in -- it'll make it much easier for you to strike up conversations with people.
2) Keep your phone nearby so you can look busy and important if you're left alone all awkward.
While you shouldn't be on your phone during the entire event, having them readily accessible when you are feeling very awkward isn't always a bad thing. Just be sure that you're not over-relying on your devices -- if needed, you can try setting "limit" on how many times you can look at your phone during the event or cocktail hour.
3) Seek out other lone wolves
You aren't the only person attending the event alone -- find your fellow solo attendees. If you spot them, introduce yourself. Trust me, they're just as eager to meet you as you are to meet them.
Note: We make it easy at lunch by offering new member or guest seating areas. Look for those signs.
4) Make a point to wait in line.
Why? It's boring. Which means people will be looking for ways to occupy themselves ... maybe with a conversation with a fellow attendee.
5) Address the elephant in the room. Tell people you're all alone.
One of my favorite "opening lines" is to be really honest. I'll say, "Hey, I'm at this event all alone and I'm looking to meet fellow business owners. What do you do?"
6) Avoid asking yes/no questions.
We've all experienced the following dialogue:
"Do you work nearby?"
Ah, the awkwardness of yes/no questions. Especially when you're just getting to know someone, asking these types of questions can stop conversations right in their tracks. Instead, rely on more open-ended questions on specific topics.
7) Leave if you really need to.
We all have limits when it comes to networking. Know yours, and be honest with yourself when you've hit it. If you're uncomfortable after spending 20 minutes circling an event without one conversation, it's okay to leave. As long as you've made an honest effort and you're getting value out of the event in other ways, it's okay to head home when things get to be too overwhelming.
8) Get Involved.
If the whole networking thing really isn't up your alley, try getting involved in another way. Volunteer to work at an event or help register people. This way you will have a purpose and inevitably you will meet new people.
9) Be Consistent.
When you first start attending the event is when it is the most awkward. After the 3rd or 4th time you will begin to recognize people and after the 8th time you will be one of the crew. Welcome new lone wolves and enjoy your new friends/ business associates.
* Modified from this blog http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/attend-conference-alone