Can I tell you guys something? I'm actually kind of shy. Now that everyone I've ever met is done laughing, I'm serious. I love talking to people, I love hearing about their awesome projects and what they're into outside of work, but that part where I go up and introduce myself to strangers? Gives me hives.
Podcamp is coming up this weekend, and the Meet n' Greet is tonight. I've noticed more than a few people on Twitter express this sort of sentiment: I've never been to one of these, I'm going by myself, and I'm terrified.
I've been there, folks. A few months ago, I drove out to Cleveland, by myself, to hang out with a bunch of people that mostly already knew each other at WMC Fest. And they didn't dump pig's blood on me or anything. Going to these things can feel like finding a lunch table the first day at a new high school, but you have a few more things working in your favor here.
That's what they're here for
Unlike the high school lunch crowd, these people are here for the same reason you are. Whether it's a meet and greet, an industry mixer, a conference, everyone is there to meet people. It's not like you're trying to make new friends in line at the movie theater (and if you are, well, I don't think you really need this blog post). So maybe it feels weird to just go up and introduce yourself, but they're expecting you to. Really, it's fine.
They're just as scared of you as you are of them
I might be thinking of bears here, but we're gonna go with it. You know how you find yourself standing by the wall, thinking "Somebody come talk to me pleaseohpleaseohplease"? Well, that guy hovering over the cheese tray is thinking the exact same thing. Be a pal, and help him out. And if you don't believe me, refer to my previous statement about the #pcpgh6 Twitter feed. There are plenty of people at these events just like you.
The more you do it, the easier it gets
The first time I had to go to an event by myself, I wanted to just down a Xanax smoothie and forget the whole thing. Now it's down to a feeling a mild dread. I'm told that at some point, these outings actually become fun! Really, it does get easier with practice, and most of the worst case scenarios you've built up in your head never actually happen. I don't have any "business tips" to pass along for these, like "comment on their tie" or "have a 30-second speech about what you do". Mostly because I'm not trying to do business, I'm trying to meet cool people. Also because I don't think I could do most of them with a straight face.
How else are you supposed to connect with kickass people?
My great motivator tends to be "what's the alternative?" Maybe I'm not too excited to walk into a room full of strangers and start chatting them up, but what are my options here? I could stay home, or I could go and have a lame time hanging out by the coat check. Uh... okay, then, bring on the strangers. The best advice that I can give you is to just go and do it. I've gotten to meet such amazingly talented people, and hear about more great projects, and to me that's worth being a little uncomfortable for a few minutes.