If you ever go to a professional conference, here’s what you see: 90 percent of the people attending have their phone at their ear or their fingertips, avoiding eye contact at all costs.
It’s weak, y’all.
The true gold of a conference is the opportunity to create or widen a professional network. These are folks you can learn from, bounce ideas off, meet for an occasional happy hour, and maybe even work with someday. Making connections is crucial to your career, your well-being, and your learning.
So, how do you do it? First, get over yourself. Not to be mean, but nobody cares—if someone doesn’t respond to your small talk, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t reality TV, no one is watching. Just go chat with someone else.
Second, recognize that most people want to connect, find a commonality, have a laugh. Reaching out is a little gift that you’re giving their day.
Here are some harmless ways to start a conversation:
Compliment something (if you mean it).
People often work to look their best at conferences, so if you truly like someone’s bag or shoes or dress, tell them. It’s a good way to get a conversation started. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.