Successful Party Networking
Mingling and making small talk–for some people mingling at parties can be very stressful. How do I start a conversation with a stranger? How do I avoid getting retained in a conversation that’s going nowhere? Learn how to work a room with confidence.
There are lots of possible positive outcomes from a social or office party. You could meet your new best friend or the love of your life! You could make a fabulous business connection that will assistance your career! You could forget about the stresses in your life for one evening and have a lot of fun! The first step to make any of those or other desirable outcomes happen is to think positive.
Adjust your Body Language
go into the party with a smile. You won’t need to worry about approaching strangers-they will approach you! Uncross your arms. Crossed arms combined with a worried or bored expression will guarantee that no one approaches you. But a beaming smile and sparkling eyes will draw people to you.
For some people, the idea of having to make small talk is abhorrent. Generally, the brighter a person is, the less interested they are in small talk. Why? Because intelligent, achieved people are accustomed to making big talk and small talk seems like useless chatter. Small talk is not about facts or words. It’s about putting people at their ease. These opening lines are the comforting efforts we make as we go into into a conversation to gauge our listener’s mood and interest. But what should you say after hello? Almost anything as long as the intention is to empathize with the listener. The goal isn’t to impress your listener from the minute you open your mouth with your great intelligence and wit. This is a holiday party not speed dating! Any banal (but positive) observation or question will serve as an opening. You could mention the venue, the food, the décor, the organization, the great number/hostess, the guest of honour, or your listener. For example, you could open with a very generic comment such as,
“I can’t believe how beautiful/dark/crowded/etc/it is in here.”
“The hostess has prepared a fabulous spread, don’t you agree?”
“Isn’t this [type of food you are eating] delicious?”
“I’m so glad I skipped lunch. The buffet table looks amazing!”
Then follow with a more specific question such as,
“How do you know the great number/hostess?”
“Are you a member of this group/political party/organization?”
“How could I get involved with this group?”
Follow up your listener’s answer by sharing how you know the organizers of the party.
The Listener’s Mood
Your listener’s body language and their answers to your opening volley will tell you a lot about how best to proceed. As any good salesperson knows, matching the client’s mood is crucial. A reflective, composed listener will likely not respond well to a back-slapping speaker-at the minimum, not at first. If you’re an outgoing storyteller, you’ll need to little by little work up to the point where your listener will be ready to hear you tell your great stories.
Active listening is like cheerleading. Your body language tells the speaker that you’re interested and enthusiastic about what’s being said and encourages the speaker. An active listener nods in agreement, maintains eye contact, smiles in response, inserts a “yes” or “uh-huh” appropriately, and asks applicable questions.
The Secret to Exiting a Conversation Graciously
If your goal is to mingle, then you want to use no more than 10 minutes with each person at the party. However, some people are such easy, fabulous conversationalists that you may find yourself tempted to use the complete evening with that one person. But ultimately all good things must come to an end.
Sometimes it happens that you get cornered. You’re innocently nibbling a canapé and enjoying the ambiance when someone fixes you with an unblinking stare and the onslaught begins. You feel stuck and your mind races to find some plausible excuse for why you need to walk away. Why is exiting a conversation so hard for some people? It’s difficult because we don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. We want people to like us. We’re programmed to be polite.
You can exit any conversation graciously. It’s easy. With these nine words, you can politely and confidently walk away with no fear of reprisal. Simply, smile, make eye contact, extend your hand and say, “It was a pleasure to meet you. Excuse me.” It’s that easy. The trick is all in the delivery. If you smile, make eye contact, extend a hand and articulate those nine words with sincerity, no one will be able to accuse you of being anything less than gracious and polite.
Storytellers and Standup Comics
How would you describe the ideal party? For me, the ideal party is entertaining. That method that I’m smiling all the way home at a funny story, some humorous comments, a quick reappearance, or someone’s humour or comical impressions. Some people are natural storytellers and standup comics. They seem to tell one great story after another effortlessly. But the truth is that these people have likely told these same stories over and over at other parties. In effect, they’ve practiced telling their stories. All that practice has made them experts. As a consequence, they’re able to set afloat into new stories-stories about things that just happened to them yesterday-because they’re confident and the rhythms and patterns of telling a good story are second character to them.