I often get asked how do you work a room like a pro when you attend a networking event or party? That is a hard thing to do but I have a few tips for preparing to work the room and then really working it when you arrive! You can do it!
1) START THE PARTY - When you arrive at the event, get your bearings. Look around the room, look for the host, look for those you know, look for the bar. Then make your move. You can always greet the host. You can also go to a friend/colleague you know well just to start conversation. If you don't see someone you know, go to the bar. Inevitably there is a line there and you can find someone to speak with.
2) BREAK FROM THE BAR - People often get stagnant - they find one group and stay in one place by the bar of buffet all night because it's the comfortable thing to do. But, do not stay at the bar or buffet for long! You are not at parties to eat or drink. You go to honor someone, meet someone, fulfill work obligations, etc. Do those things - not stuff yourself on bad quiche bites.
3) INTRODUCE YOURSELF LIBERALLY - So go introduce yourself to someone new! If you do not know anyone at the event, walk up to a group that looks like it is having a good time and say, "Hi, my name is ____. Your group looked like it was having such a good time I thought I'd like to join." The group will pull you right in and in no time you will be making new connections. Make sure you state your name clearly so people know who they are meeting and if you have name tag, write your name largely and legibly.
4) MOVE AROUND - Don't stay in the same group too long! It is important to keep moving throughout the party. While it may be comfortable to stay with one group the whole night, you should not. Stay a reasonable amount of time to get to know people, but break that conversation to make a move to a new group. This will broaden your circle and make the most of the event. I usually give myself a goal of meeting 3-5 new people. This goal reminds me to keep moving!
5) MAKE SMALL TALK COUNT - In all the groups, have meaningful conversations. People like talking about themselves, so open ended questions that allow people to discuss themselves will always keep the conversation going. Think of "how" questions. Those make for easy open ended questions like "how do you know the host?, how did you hear about this event?, how long have you lived here?, etc. The answer to these questions is usually a lenghty one that you can build a conversation on if you are listening!
Do you have any questions about how to work the room? Please ask! Now, party on!
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M.E.L. is an attorney and small business entrepreneur whose mission is to help professionals conquer the workaday world with style and poise.
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