I’m sure we’ve all been there. Social function. Lots of people. And you know no-one.
So you sit/stand off to the side by yourself, holding onto your drink, checking your phone for ANYTHING, and wondering at what point you can slip away. After all, no-one will notice, will they? They haven’t noticed you yet…
Everyone seems to know everyone else, and there’s lots of laughter and fun being had. But you’ve come to this event knowing none of these happy people. You thought there’d be some connection because you all work in the same industry, and this is a conference of like-minded people, and it IS an official conference event you’re attending. But the groups all seem well-established. How do you break in? DO you break in?
Do you just sip on your free drink and assess the situation, then quietly disappear? Or do you try to break into a group that seems to be impenetrable? What if you have nothing to say? What if they don’t like you? Or worse, what if they ignore you?
I’ve been there. And it’s not pretty. It’s not a nice situation, and can be really damaging to your mental health and feelings of self-worth.
So when I saw a chap sitting off to the side of our conference group, but part of our party, I watched him for a couple of minutes to make sure he wasn’t with anyone. He wasn’t. He was just observing people, and sipping on his martini. And he was obviously alone and knew no-one. The group I was with have all known each other for ages, and we were having a nice time. But I kept getting drawn to ‘lone martini man’.
Then I did something I’ve seen others do, but have never done myself. I excused myself from my jolly group, grabbed my drink and went and sat down beside him. I introduced myself (his name was Eric), said how I’d noticed he was by himself and asked he wanted some company. I then initiated a conversation with him, and he was very grateful as he was going to leave after that one and only drink. He’d come down from the San Francisco area and this was his first time at one of these conferences, and no, he didn’t know anyone. He’d been people-watching, which was the excuse I used to use when I was in such a situation.
After a few minutes’ conversation, I found out that Eric has rescue greyhounds! How serendipitous!!! A friend of mine (Hamish, one of the other Australians at this conference) is also involved in greyhound rescue. So when I spotted Hamish, I called him over and introduced him to Eric. Within seconds they were sharing their pictures of their respective greyhounds and exchanging business cards and details on their dogs.
My work here was done! ;-)
(Actually, it wasn’t quite done… I spotted Eric at the conference a couple more times over the next two days, and he had a great big smile and hello for me, and he seemed to be actively participating in the conference social activities. I hope in some way I helped break the ice for him. If nothing else, he now has a friend on the other side of the world who he can talk to about his greyhound pets. It’s all about listening, asking the right questions, then putting people with common interests together. And doing your social duty to another human being.)