When I first started blogging nearly four years ago, the thought of going solo to an event where I knew absolutely no one would have been enough to bring me out in hives. I’d have had some questions before predictably deciding to skip it. Number one: Why the HELL would I voluntarily put myself through that kind of torture? Number two: Can I bring a friend to cling onto/hide behind? and if not, then Number three: How do I get out of this and hide out at home without looking like a total loser? The truth is that I’d have made my excuses, metaphorically shut the curtains and hid out at home – simple as. “If anyone calls I’m not here!!!”
We’ve all been there (I hope!); at some point we all get invited to that party of a friend of a friend – only to have the friend bail at the last minute, or get sent to a networking event to mingle with total strangers (smingle?). Shudder. I got invited to my first event four months after I started blogging and even though I was thrilled to have been invited, I was rattled. I’d have to go alone and worse, as I was brand spanking new to the Cardiff Blogging Scene, I wouldn’t know anyone. Yeesh. Thankfully, I decided to be brave and went anyway, and even though – yeah – it was a bit awkward walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces, by the end of the event they became familiar and I came away realising that – actually – I wasn’t the wallflower I thought I was. Four years on and I pretty much go solo to all the events that I get an invite to (in fact, as this post goes live I’ll be on my way to yet another one), and even though I still get those butterflies and that urge to bail – every single time – I’ve learned to take a breath and power through it and I always end up having a good time.
So, down to the million pound question: How do you survive a party or an event when you don’t know anyone? How do you do it without clinging to a corner scrolling on your phone or choosing to keep the dog or cat company (GUILTY)? Here are some tricks and tips I’ve picked up over the years.
I honestly can’t think of anything worse than turning up to a party or an event when it’s in full swing. Having to walk into a room where everyone’s already paired up and chatting away is my idea of hell, so I always – if I can – try to be the first person to arrive. Yeah, it’s a bit lame and you risk looking over-eager, but there’s a massive upside. If you’re the first to arrive you’ll get one on one time with the host before anyone else does (and before they’re busy) – so, you can introduce yourself, offer to help out – and, when everyone else starts arriving they’ll most likely zone in on the host too, who’ll probably introduce you. Easy, you’re in!
Pick a Bomb Outfit (and compliment everyone else’s)
Obviously you’ll want to check the dress code, but pick an outfit that you’re not only comfortable wearing, but also one that makes you feel confident. I always like to wear one of my weird shirts because that’s usually how other bloggers recognise me (I’m the weird shirt girl) but also because they’re striking and a bit of a conversation starter. Also, complimenting other people’s outfits is one of the best ways to strike up a conversation – a quick, “Sorry, I just had to come over and tell you how much I love your dress/bag/shoes – where are they from?” is all it takes.
Hunt down other guests who’ve decided to go it alone
One of the best tips I’ve ever read about going it alone is to track down someone else who’s in the same boat! There’ll always be someone shy standing alone desperate to be rescued – so why not be their knight in shining armour? They’ll be so grateful! And don’t stop once you’ve settled in and have found a few people to talk to – always be on the look out for someone in trouble. 🙂
Come armed with conversation topics
Don’t be the nob who reverts to chatting about the weather when there’s nothing else to say! Come armed with questions to ask and topics to talk about. After moving in with a compliment conversation starter ask questions about the other person’s life and the ball will usually start rolling. At a lot of the blogging events I’ve been to there’ll usually be someone I recognise from social media – even if I’ve never met them in real life, and that makes things so much easier! If they post pictures of their dog, I ask them questions about that cute pupper – if they recently posted pictures of themselves on holiday, I ask them about it! I always feel like a total stalker, but usually I find the other person is just so happy you’ve taken an interest in them on a personal level that it never seems to come across as stalkerish. Maybe it’s a blogger loop hole!
No one is staring at you
Unless you get naked, you’re golden. After I attended my first event alone, one of the biggest things I realised about myself was that I’d much rather take a risk and be the loudest, friendliest person in the room than play it safe and be the one standing alone scrolling on their phone. I’ve always thought of myself as this shy wallflower – an introvert to the core – and I still am; I always get nervous before throwing myself into a social situation and I actually get a social hangover if I’ve spent too much time socialising (It’s a real thing!). But, I’ve realised that I can be social and that I enjoy being social. The truth is that the party or event isn’t going to revolve around you, there isn’t going to be a big spotlight following you around and no one is trying to catch you out or trip you up. No one will care if you make a mistake. So relax!
Okay, hear me out; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of liquid luck, but use it once and it’ll become a crutch for every event you attend thereafter. All the early events I attended on my own, I drove to – which at the time seemed like madness because, “How the hell am I going to be able to talk to people without a bit of dutch courage!?” But actually, being forced to stay sober meant that by the end of the night when I’d come away having had a fantastic time and met some great people, I could chalk it up to being completely myself.
Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know anyone
You mean, admit that you’re a loner!? ARE YOU CRAZY? Well, look. You can either stand around and hope someone will come and rescue you, or you can take a gamble and admit that you’re vulnerable. I’ve done it a couple of times myself when I’ve really struggled to find someone to talk to and the other person has always been absolutely lovely and introduced to their friends. No one is ever going to turn their back on you and tell you to go away – that worst case scenario rolling around in your head doesn’t exist.
Give Yourself a Bail-out Time
Before leaving, I always give myself a deadline – a time when I’m allowed to “give up”, call it quits and leave. Not only is it a sensible thing to do so your nearest and dearest know what time you’re likely to be heading home, but it also takes the edge off if you’re nervous. You’ll know there’s an end in sight. Usually you’ll find that your bail out time sneaks up way too soon and you’ll be having such a great time that you’ll end up extending it anyway! 😉
If you’re local to Cardiff, whether you’re a blogger or own a small business or just fancy mingling with some new faces then there are loads of networking events to attend. Definitely check out The Monday Club (most of the photographs in this post were taken at their summer garden party earlier this week), The Wonders Of Events, Warrior Women and House 21.