There were 100 people in the room, but I felt so alone.
In NYC, I attended an EdTech meetup, a community dedicated to developing tech solutions in the education space. Education is a passion of mine, so I was eager to check out the group and establish some valuable connections.
Unfortunately, my initial optimism quickly faded when I entered a room filled with clusters of people engaged in animated conversations with one another. Each group seemed like an impenetrable wall.
I’m aware that the extroverts among you reading this blog might be thinking, “Well, Tom, just approach one of those groups and introduce yourself. It’s easy.” Meanwhile, the introverts among our readers might be saying, “This sounds like a nightmare.”
The key to successful networking should not be contingent on whether someone is extroverted or introverted; it should rest squarely on the shoulders of the event’s organizers.
There are four crucial steps that every leader should take to create a positive networking experience for everyone:
The leadership team should always designate someone to greet attendees as they arrive at the event. In Dance Floor Theory, we refer to these individuals as your Door Greeters. They serve as the first point of social connection for newcomers, and their friendly demeanor and genuine interest go a long way in breaking the ice and making new attendees feel at ease.
Introduce People To Each Other:
One of the most challenging aspects of such events is infiltrating existing groups engrossed in conversation, particularly when you’re new and unfamiliar with anyone present. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to bridge these gaps. If you notice someone standing alone or appearing hesitant, take the initiative to introduce them to others.
Form Small, Relevant Groups:
The most effective introductions occur when there is a shared interest among those being introduced. So, rather than randomly connecting people, consider matching them up based on a common interest. In a previous post, I shared a story about connecting two people based on their shared love for Batman. These two individuals remained together for the entire event, engaging in lively discussions about their mutual interests.
Get Out Of The Way:
After making an introduction, step aside. If you lack knowledge or interest in the topic being discussed, there’s no need to pretend otherwise. Allow attendees the space to cultivate their connections and engage in meaningful conversations without feeling pressured or monitored. However, stepping back is about more than just letting others connect independently. It’s also essential because, as a leader, you have a room full of people to interact with, so keep yourself from a single group. As we say in Dance Floor Theory, stop being the gatekeepers of engagement and start being the facilitators.
Ultimately, a successful event is one where every attendee feels part of a broader community. Success should not hinge on extroversion or introversion; it’s about creating an environment where everyone can thrive. By following these four steps, event leaders can ensure that their meetups, or any networking event, become spaces where individuals connect, learn, and grow together.