Sometimes gathering with people, especially strangers, at an event raise anxieties for most of us. You lack familiarity with anyone, some of us are a little more uncomfortable in these situations but the great thing is that it can get better.
I hope that the Oklahoma State HR Conference in 2013 will be your chance to feel a little bit better about meeting new people and being with hundreds of HR professionals you don’t know “yet”.
For those who know me my next statement will be a little surprising, walking into and meeting lots of new people is not that easy for me. It’s much better than it used to be, I have worked really hard and focus on pushing through this challenge constantly. I speak to groups, I am in roles where I need to meet lots of people and I’m professionally engaged in a business that is about building relationships, so I’ve focused on improvement in this area.
I’m going to share some of my tips/tricks/tools that employ to be more at ease.
Here are 3 things to think about:
1. Keep moving for first few minutes of the event with all people, walk the perimeter. Check out the layout. This will keep your mind busy and allow you to scan the group.
2. Don’t fill your hands up with stuff, a drink, a plate, a give-a-way, etc. This just makes the awkwardness of trying to shake hands or have a conversation exponentially more difficult. Stay nimble!
3. Have a few questions in queue mentally as a fall back if you get nervous and start to “freak out” and remember the other person is probably just as nervous as you.
a) Where do you work?
b) Sports teams you like?
c) Where did you go to school?
d) Are you able to find time for outside interest i.e. volunteering, travel, hobbies… (It’s tough for me with my hectic schedule)
e) Get in front of the awkwardness and say, hey…I’m really not very good at meeting people or networking so here is my best effort on an ice-breaking question… (insert question)
f) Pull out the compliment if you’re sinking fast: nice shoes-ear rings-purse-manpurse-nail color-something not too sexy (its an HR conference remember).
*I personally avoid the kid/significant other conversation too early, its higher risk for major fail. Some people feel more comfortable with these conversations, just go with what feels right for you.
Bonus section: If you able to drink then have a glass of wine, it might chill you out. If you’re not able to drink then I would probably wouldn’t.
Make sure you introduce yourself to me, I will make the conversation easy and maybe even fun. Most important thing to remember is you are here to meet other HR professionals just like you, learn from them and have fun!