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Whether you're at a friend's party, business function, or networking event, there will always come a time when you have to "work a room". But you don't have to talk a big game or tell witty jokes.
You don't even have to be interesting (despite the fact that you probably are).
Here are 11 tips to help you work a room, regardless of whether you're a socialite.
This can be as simple as knowing who invited you, or having a goal to meet one new person.
Your acquaintances can introduce you to others, and/or others will see you engaged in friendly conversation making you desirable to chat with.
People love hearing themselves speak; they'll think you're the most interesting person in the world if you let them do all the talking. Ask open-ended interesting questions. One of my favourites is "What excites you in life?" Getting people talking about their passions can lead to some interesting conversations.
If you don't know how to break the ice, start by asking how they know the party host, or comment on the food or venue.
A crucial aspect of asking questions is listening. This almost always leads you to your next question. Don't think about what you want to say in response; you'll stop listening when you do this. Instead just let them steer the conversation with their answers, and listen for your next question opportunity.
It may seem strange, but repeating what somebody just told you (with slightly different words) creates an instant (subconscious) connection. It follows the concept of mirroring: a body-language technique.
This is especially effective with children. You can literally repeat what they tell you word for word, and you'll be best friends forever.
At some point you'll be asked standard "cocktail party questions", usually about what you do. Rehearse a 7-10 second spiel that encapsulates it, and hopefully creates some degree of additional curiosity.
Three major points are to make eye contact, smile, and face your partner.
Observe group formations and dynamics. People standing alone are easiest to approach. People slightly facing away from their conversation partners are open to somebody new joining the conversation (or desperately looking for an out, which you could gallantly be)!
Circulate around the room (especially if you're at a networking event). Sitting down with somebody usually means you're committing to a long conversation (which can be somewhat antisocial at parties), and sitting alone reduces your approachability (and negates your ability to approach others).
There's nothing worse than feeling cornered into a long conversation. External influences are the easiest ways to move on (needing a drink, toilet, or seeing somebody you need to speak with). Ask leading and conclusive questions that naturally bring the conversation to an end. And don't be offended if your conversation partner politely moves on from you! Professional networkers say 2-5 minutes of conversation is enough, and parties are rarely the place to delve into the inner depths of philosophy or personal issues.
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Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora
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These are great tips Nora! One point you bring up that I really find true is when meeting somebody for the first time body language is quite important to make a decent first impression.
@nomadicsamuel - Thanks! yes, body language is a big one - a post in itself! (Stay tuned...coming very very soon!) :-)
Thanks, Nora. I find it very hard not to sit down but you're right, it's not conducive to networking. I really must force myself to look out for the body language of others and start pouncing on people who are alone or available. I'm always so far out of my comfort zone at these events but it's worth the effort in the end.
Your body speaks volumes about you; the majority of communication takes place non-verbally and subconsciously.