Attending Conferences: I'm Just Here for the Food

Imagine being surrounded by Black Girl Magic in its literal form: electrifying energy, innovative ideas, a strong sense of community and excellence.

Now, imagine someone declaring “I’m just here for the food”. That’s basically what you are saying if you attend a conference and don’t engage with the other attendees.

I’ve attended conferences alone. I felt awkward. It can be intimidating when it seems like everyone else has a ‘person’ but you. I left without meeting a soul. Money, time and energy wasted. Yeah, I was that girl.

Don’t be that girl.

Here are 3 ways that I was able to overcome the awkwardness and meet my business BFF:

 Be Social

In the months and weeks prior to the event, you should follow the conference pages on social media. In addition to providing information about the conference, the social media pages are a great way to pre-network!

 Are you traveling to the conference from out of state? Find and follow locals that are attending.  Ask for their recommendations to non-touristy restaurants, or where to find the best spas or boutiques. Common interests are another great way to build relationships. Go ahead, click on the profile of someone that has commented on the event page. You may find that you graduated from the same school as one attendee, work in the same field as another or share a love for traveling with yet another. Don’t be afraid to show some love or send a DM to introduce yourself. It’s great to see familiar faces in the crowd, especially if you plan to attend alone. If you are an introvert, this pre-introduction will relieve the anxiety of introducing yourself to strangers and help build the confidence to build even more relationships in person.

Be a Connector

Don’t be the girl that’s always looking for a plug. Be the plug. As you meet people, listen for opportunities to lend yourself as a resource. It could be as simple as recommending a graphic designer that you’ve worked with to a business owner that’s looking to re-launch her website. If you’ve met individuals that work in the same field or live in the same city and don’t know each other, introduce them! Make the most out of your investment (time, energy, money) by positioning yourself as a connector of people, resources and opportunities. Be intentional about how you connect with people.

Be Bold

Stand out! Try a bold lipstick, wear a funky piece of jewelry or steal a page from Issa Rae’s Insecure wardrobe and rock a shirt or bag with a positive quote or funny saying. Make a statement. Women love to compliment each other and connect on all things beauty/fashion related. Giving another woman a sincere compliment is an easy way to begin a conversation with someone you’ve just met. I’ve had conversations that began with “You are ROCKING those faux locs girl!” and ended with “Let me introduce you to my colleague that’s looking to invest.”

 

Most importantly, be YOU….and who knows, you may meet your business BFF at the next conference that you attend!