I'll be honest, attending your first (or tenth) Meetup event can be extremely uncomfortable. Meeting strangers doesn't come easy even if you're participating in a likeminded activity - such as drinking or playing cards against humanity or all being proud owners of an Aussie Doodle. Whatever the case, it can be daunting. Despite the weird moments, Meetup events can help you connect with your community and get more out of life (cue the inspirational music). I've hosted and attended over 200+ events so trust me when I say that I know the best ways to get the most out of the groups you attend.
1. Keep the bar low
If your expectations aren't high, it's much easier post-Meetup to think "Wow, I really enjoyed that!". Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves when attending any function. People have a tendency to disappoint us if we go in with the expectation they are friend/partner material. We can eliminate that by lowering the bar and keeping an open mind.
2. Liquid courage goes a long way
Almost all of us who are of drinking age can vouch for the helpful assistance alcohol has provided us at one point or another in a social setting. After a drink or two you find yourself opening up and feeling a bit more relaxed. If you need that little extra social butterfly zap, I totally recommend hitting the bar before mingling. If you don't drink alcohol or don't want to rely on it too much - I still recommend having a drink in your hand even if it's a soda or mock-tail. If the conversation or activity gets weird, you can always say "I need to grab another drink!" It's also helpful for taking the occasional pause in between conversation, you don't want to come off to eager or too talkative right away.
3. Have an exit strategy
Kinda like when you go on a blind date and ask your friend to call you halfway through dinner to share the news that *gasp* a long lost aunt died and you absolutely have to leave right away - unless, of course, this is obviously the love of your life. If you don't like the members or the host then it's a good idea to have a reason to leave. Or you can literally just leave - sometimes it's best to cut your losses.
4. Talk to everyone
Even the weird guy sitting in the back corner who doesn't make eye contact. Friending, dating, networking - it's all a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more options you have. Talking to everyone helps your own social skills grow and makes it easier to do down the road. Take advantage of this space and getting to know those who also decided they wanted to spend their coveted Saturday evening time with a bunch of randoms who share an interest in charcuterie boards.
5. Be yourself
Yes, I know - it's a bit cringe of me to sit here like your mother and say "Be yourself because you're amazing...." but it's true! Whoever you are meeting will be able to tell if you're being authentic or not. Obviously we all have our "social self" that we tend to put out there first. Our "social self" is usually a more presentable, articulate, funny version of our normal self. It's fine to tweak your personality here and there for the sake of introductions or conversing but at the end of the day, it's much better to be the realest version of you.
6. Not everyone will like you
Going off of tip #5, as much as your mother loves you - it's possible not everyone in the group will. Even if most everyone in the world likes you, I can guarantee there's at least someone in the group who rolls their eyes every time you walk in. Take it with a grain of salt. If this group isn't for you then I'm sure there's countless other ones that will be. You have to find your vibe. It's not the host's fault, it's not the other members fault, and it's not your fault. It's just life, ugh.
7. Look ahead
If you enjoy the group you are attending or meet someone you connect with, make tentative plans right then and there for a future hangout. Share contact information, social media handles, whatever. Discussing an upcoming event or activity will help you both look forward to the next time you see each other. This small interaction can help break the ice after the Meetup ends and you want to reach out. Instead of texting them: "Hey, remember me from a few weeks ago?" (Because they might not or they might be in a completely different mental space) you can text, "Hey, it's X from hiking last weekend. Do you still want to plan to try out the new trail this week?" Since you've already made this "tentative" plan, they likely will want to carry it out.
8. You have to put in some effort
If Britney Spears could give you advice on friending, she would definitely say "You better network b*tch!" Unfortunately everything worth having in life requires effort. If you want this event you're attending to be worthwhile then you have to put yourself out there and get involved. Sitting around in the corner, talking to the only person you know isn't going to do much for you.
9. Embrace the awkward
You could be the most suave person in the entire world and I can guarantee that even you will have an awkward moment attending Meetups. You (or the person you're talking to) will run out of things to say, make a joke no one finds funny, totally misread the conversation, whatever. It's not if but when! So embrace the awkward for what it is. If someone with zero social skills comes up to you and wants to show you pictures of their nephew, just let it happen. You don't have to see any of these people ever again but you might have some pretty hilarious stories to share down the road.
Going to events with strangers can seem gag-inducing. Hopefully these little tips will help remind you that each person is feeling the same way you are. Embrace the moment for what it is - a social setting with fellow humans. If you like it then you can go back. If you hate it then you can leave. There's truly no pressure and you're putting yourself out there and taking control of your social life as an adult - which is something not many can say! Go with the flow, drink some drinks, find an event with an activity you like.
Follow me on Instagram / TikTok @meetwithmacey and share your stories with me #meetwithmacey! Let's hang out soon!