I’m pretty social and a good connector when it comes to dinner parties or smaller get-togethers (and I also love to travel solo!). BUT invite me to a large party or to an industry event and I am miserable. I get totally shy and awkward and you’ll typically find me huddled in a corner with my phone until I can’t stand it for one more minute and leave.
At a recent birthday party with a hundred people in attendance (of which I knew maybe 5), I snuck out after an hour. On my walk home, I decided I needed to avoid these kinds of events. A few blocks later, I decided I needed to take this challenge on in a new way. By the time I got home, I was strategizing how to become a master partier, determined that I would overcome this social deficiency. My goal for the next large party is not to leave until I have engaged with at least 5 new people. Read on below for 10 key tips that I am using to master the large party.
A few days after the birthday party debacle, this article from Entrepreneur came to my attention. Although it is geared to business networking, the key insights and tips work for all types of social gatherings involving large groups of people.
I’m sold on the idea that with a bit of preparation, the next party or networking event I am invited to will be fantastic instead of yet another awkward, tense nightmare. Being an effective partier and networker means going into events with a purpose and a plan. It also means being 100 percent committed to connecting authentically with those around you. I will report back to let you know how this works out!!
1. Research guests/attendees before the event.
For a big party, guest lists are often available thru online invites or thru facebook if that’s how the event was organized. Do a little research on the other guests beforehand. If it is a big industry event, there’s often an attendees list from which you can do a little linked in checking so that you can find some people who you might enjoy meeting based on their industry or the work they do.
2. Ask questions, be a good listener, give your full attention
Ask thoughtful questions — and actually listen to the answers. Give your undivided attention, just as you would expect them to do with you.
3. Be a connector.
This is something I am actually good at. When I went solo on my Alaska trip last year, I decided I would join a different table for each meal so I met everyone and within a few days was able to introduce people to like-minded travelers. That was a really great experience although it was a small boat with only 40 guests and about as many staff.
4. Keep an open posture.
An “open” posture — head up, arms and legs uncrossed — conveys an openness to being approached. Looking at the floor, crossing your arms, checking your phone (I am very guilty of that one), can convey shyness and unfriendliness.
5. Introduce yourself.
Big events can be awkward. Particularly if you’re an introvert, starting conversations may not come naturally. Vow to overcome your natural temptation to blend into the woodwork, and make a point of introducing yourself to at least five people.
6. Focus on how people feel when they’re with you.
Instead of focusing on how you feel at the event, focus on making your conversation partner feel good about themselves. You can do this through being a great listener, asking thoughtful questions and giving your undivided attention. After the event, people are more likely to remember those individuals who made them feel good about themselves.
7. Follow up within 72 hours.
If you’ve promised to send information or connect with someone, a good rule of thumb is to do it within 72 hours after the event. Waiting any longer may unintentionally convey disinterest.
8. Focus on quality, not quantity.
Spending time engaging in meaningful conversations with a few people is often better than floating around the room engaging in short, superficial conversations. Aim to make real connections by asking questions, listening intently and moving beyond small talk, where appropriate.
Smiling conveys happiness, openness and confidence; not to mention that smiling can actually help you feel happier. Smile liberally to make yourself as approachable as possible.
10. Prepare your elevator pitch.
There’s nothing worse than being asked the question, “What do you do?” and suddenly coming up blank. The idea of a traditional elevator pitch is a bit outdated, but the underlying strategy is still a good one: Come up with a few sentences you can use to accurately describe yourself or your business. And remember to make it interesting and fun.