10 Steps to Working a Room

by Michael on August 13, 2009 · 0 comments

You'd think showing up naked to the networking lunch would offer a natural conversation starter... (Photo by earcos)

You'd think showing up naked to the networking lunch would offer a natural conversation starter...turns out it just makes people uncomfortable. (Photo by earcos)

One of the greatest indications of a high status (or “alpha”) male is his ability to work a room: somehow meeting everyone at a party or function and drawing them into interesting conversation.

When you can walk into a room full of strangers and engage them in discussion, you’ll be perceived as a leader by men, and desired by women — in fact, this skill set is a part of any decent pickup artist’s repertoire. You can make more business contacts and make new friends as well, and as you practice your confidence level will skyrocket.

The basics are simple:

  1. Be on the lookout for interesting things. You’ll use them as conversation starters (or “openers”). The best way to start a conversation is with a question (“Is that an actual Pollock on the wall?”). This is where being observant pays dividends.
  2. Ask open-ended questions (“How do you know [the host]?” “What did you think of [city they’ve been to]?”) that encourage people to talk about themselves, even at a business networking function. When you seem interested in someone, they perceive you as interesting.
  3. Be the leader. Move around the room, starting multiple conversations. Your goal is to be less of a guest and more of a host. Take it upon yourself to make sure everyone’s having fun and/or making connections.
  4. Watch your body language. Make eye contact, smile, keep your body “open” (no crossed arms). Don’t “hotbox,” or stand directly facing one person: this prevents others joining you, and can make that person feel uncomfortable. Instead, stand slightly at an angle to them.
  5. Avoid permanently joining a “huddle” or “rock pile.” While it may feel comfortable, it prevents you from achieving your goal of meeting new people. You can talk to the same person more than once, however…
  6. Draw people you previously spoke with into your new conversations. As they approach or pass by, greet them by name, ask if they know the person you’re now speaking with, and then tell them what you’re discussing.
  7. The first time you talk to someone, you’re a stranger; the second time, you’re a friend. This may be oversimplifying, but familiarity is a positive.
  8. When you’re nervous, use it as a bonding tool. People thrown together as strangers are often nervous themselves, and empathy forms a strong connection.
  9. Watch baristas and bartenders. They’re paid to be social. Small-company CEOs and “outside” salespeople also have jobs that depend on befriending others, but they’re harder to follow and observe.
  10. Practice! Parties, business networking events, checkout lines, the dining hall or cafeteria — you can meet people anywhere. When I was building my skills I signed up for every business networking event I could find: there are always people who will be happy to meet you at networking events.

The basics (which are really all you need: details fill themselves in as you practice) are all here in this video from the Ignite! series. Note that the speaker isn’t someone you’d guess would be a master (mistress?) at working a room:

There’s more, with a business angle, in this short article from GigaOM, geared towards the entrepreneur but valuable to any guy who wants to build confidence and/or his social circle. From there it’s easy to visualize meeting people and having fun — emphasis on the fun — anywhere you go.

If you’re interested enough to want some in-depth networking advice, the book I own is Work the Pond by Darcy Rezac. It’s easy, quick reading and a great reference you can return to as you practice.

How to Work the Room [GigaOM]

How to Work a Crowd by Alexis Bauer [Ignite] (via Lifehacker)

Work the Pond! Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life [Amazon.com]

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