Each Fantastic Friday throughout the month of October, I will be writing articles about faking confidence until you make it in various situations. Last week's article dealt with speaking in public. Upcoming articles will focus on faking confidence:
in front of clients
with professional peers
This Fantastic Friday will focus on faking confidence at a networking event. It is my hope that by teaching you to fake the confidence, you will be able to get the job done and as a result, develop the real confidence you will need in the future.
With increases in technology and travel options, networking events are becoming increasingly popular. It seems that no matter what your industry or hobby, there are a great number of networking events each year, most held in exciting destination cities. Once you select a networking event to attend, it is time to get prepared to go have an interesting experience with your peers. I am privileged to be serving as a social media ambassador for the upcoming PowerUp Weekend in Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2012.
As with so many things with life, the ability to fake confidence at a networking event begins with preparation. Your preparation should begin with a study of the event brochure. Today, most conference brochures can be found online. The PowerUp brochure for example lists the purpose of the event, featured speakers, session topics, social media team members, sponsorship information and ticket purchasing options. This is all the information you need to get started. Study the brochure to see what you are getting yourself into, this is the first and most important step in your preparation to fake confidence at the networking event.
When you review the brochure, check out the featured speakers. Do a Google search on each of them. Go to the websites for the each of the featured speakers. Pay careful attention to each speaker make notes on the topic the speaker will be talking about and the speaker's biographical information. This information will help you have something to talk about with your fellow attendees. This information will also give you something to talk about should you find yourself face to face with one of the featured speakers. Next do the same research on the social media members and conference sponsors.
While you are in research mode, be sure to check out the city where the conference is to be held. It is a simple matter to do a Google search of the conference city. You will need to know the typical weather conditions at conference time, the political and social climate of the city as well as the typical tourist destinations. Once again, you are dealing with a situation where knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, the more facts you have at your disposal, the easier it will be to project confidence.
When the time comes for you to hit the conference floor, smile. Keep all your materials (computer, phone, notebooks, pens etc.) in a lightweight bag on the left side of your body. A lightweight bag will be easier to carry around all the conference events. By keeping everything on the left side, your right side and importantly your right hand are free to shake hands with the people you encounter throughout the day. While standing in line to enter the conference room, smile at the people on either side of you and force yourself to say hello. A trick I learned from my favorite Unconventional Librarians is to say, "Wow I wish I had a good cup of coffee right now." That works for a day or afternoon meeting. When it is a nighttime meeting, she changes the coffee to a drink. This is a good icebreaker. The person you are speaking with will either agree or disagree, but it doesn't matter. A conversation has been started. Keep smiling.
If you have friends at the conference, arrange to sit together at sessions where possible. Having a friend makes you appear more popular and can help you fake confidence. If you are attending the conference without friends, look around the room for another single person and strike up a conversation. You can say something like, " I am here without the friends I usually go places with, do you mind if I sit with you?" Best case scenario, the person says yes and you make a new friend. Worst case scenario, the person says no and you have to try it again. But if the person does say no, it is actually great because you will not spend the session with a miserable person!
Talk to those around you about the session, ask what made them pick the particular session. As if they have attended an event like this before. By giving other people a chance to talk about their experiences, you flatter them and give them chance to feel important. This will make them feel favorably toward you whenever they encounter you. People in the room will see you talking and smiling. This makes you look to those in the room as if you are a happy, smiling and confident person. Repeat this behavior at each session.
The secrets to being able to fake confidence at networking events are:
1. research the event
2. research the speakers
4. strike up a conversation about drinks while waiting in line
5. allow a fellow attendee to act like an expert
Anyone can be confident at a networking event with a little work and preparation. So, the question for you this Fantastic Friday is, what are your secrets for appearing to be confident at networking events.