Do you know how to work a room? At some point, we all have had to do it: at a business event, a social event, a birthday party, etc. Even showing up for the first time to a group exercise class can be intimidating. The setting isn’t really the issue – the challenge is the number of new faces hitting your eyeballs all at once.
Socializing may seem to come easily to some people, and for many folks in the technical community, it can be agony. No matter what line of work you are in, knowing how to socialize can be beneficial, both personally and business-wise. Here are some things you can do to make it less stressful the next time.
Don’t Think of It as Work
Even if it is a work or business event, try to not think of it as work. Work is something you have to do. See this as an opportunity to look at people with fresh eyes. After all, just like you, your colleagues also go home to family and friends. There may be some qualities (and, in some cases, some redeeming qualities) in people that you may have previously missed or dismissed.
Focus on a few People
Don’t try to have face time with “everyone.” Take your time, perhaps 10 to 15 minutes to get to know one individual.
Use what I call the “Law of 3”: give your cards to no more than 3 people; accept no more than 3 cards. Think of how many business cards you already have collecting dust. Stop chasing names and numbers. Try to connect to 3 people who can help you, and 3 people to whom you can be useful. Ideally, the 3 people you can help are also the same people who can help you.
Converse, don’t Close
Forget the script! Some people rehearse what to say in their head.
- What is the right approach?
- What comebacks should I have ready?
- What if they ask me something I don’t know?
- How do I ask for their number?
All that “stratigery” is an exercise in futility. People are not deals to be closed, even if it’s a business event. Be yourself, be confident, and above all, be genuinely interested in the other person. Displaying an interest in them will make you pay attention to them. You will better observe what they may be thinking or feeling.
If you’re not naturally gifted at reading people, that’s ok, too. That’s why questions exist. Ask people about the subject they know best – themselves – and it will be easier for you to make a memorable and meaningful connection.
If you have to go out, you might as well have fun! Keep that aspect in mind, because if you’re relaxed, it will carry over into your interactions.