When I first started writing, I thought I could do it the way writers did it decades ago- I just needed to read, research, and write. Little did I know that over the course of my career, I would be required to do other tasks indirectly related to my job, one of which is attending events. Forming relationships with other actors of your industry is no easy task, but the outcome far outweighs the initial discomfort. Here are four ways that will not only make it easier for you but also help you make the best of any event you’re required to attend:
1. Dress the part This doesn’t mean that you need to wear designer dresses and five-inch heels at every single event. It depends on the type of event you’re attending, and your role in the said event. Don’t wear jeans and sneakers if you’re moderating a roundtable discussion with businesspeople. Don’t wear a tuxedo if you’re visiting an organic farm as part of a press trip. You do need to be presentable at all times: clean hair and nails, clothing in good condition, a little bit of makeup (for women) or a properly groomed beard (for men). It sounds shallow (and there is always more to people than meets the eye), but first impressions are crucial. Look the part and you’re halfway there.
2. Do your homework You know who the worst person at an event is? It’s the one that gets there and asks a random person, “What is this event about, again?” Don’t be that person. If you’re not familiar with the organization or entity that invited you, do some online research. Ask questions. Email someone and ask for more details if they didn’t provide enough information. You should be doing that anyway, just to see if the event is worth your time and energy, and most importantly, if it can be beneficial to yourself or your company’s aims. Sloppiness is inexcusable, and that doesn’t just apply to your looks.
3. Be physically and mentally present There is no point in you showing up if you’re going to mentally plan your next vacation for the entire duration of the event. Focus on what’s happening, whether it’s a discussion or a networking gathering. There is a lot you can take from any type of event- inspiration or material for your next feature, a contact for a potential advertiser, meeting a social media enthusiast (we all hate that word) that might give you a few tips for your online platforms. By being distracted, not only do you look like you don’t want to be there and reduce your chances of being invited again, you also miss out on prospective opportunities.
4. Fake it ‘til you become it I’m not saying you should pass for someone you’re not or lie about your competencies- that’s the ugly side of faking it. I’m saying you can fake your confidence when you start attending events on your own and you literally know no one. I’ve been there and I know the feeling. Don’t sit in a corner and look at your shoes; you’re supposed to get out there and mingle with people. Look like you know what you’re doing- body language goes a long way. Working on your general demeanor doesn’t hurt either; you can steer the conversation on topics you’re educated on, even if they’re not directly related to the event you’re attending.