By Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick
Whether you are attending a social function for purely personal reasons, or a social business function for professional reasons, knowing how to mingle with ease and grace with others is an important life skill. It is also an essential executive skill.
Would you like to feel more comfortable attending social events?
Would you like to know how to network like a pro?
Would you like to know how to shine at your social business functions?
Would you like to be able to confidently approach others and make small talk?
Would you like to be known as a savvy socializer?
The following step-by-step guide will provide you with all you need to know to mingle with ease and grace at all of your social functions, ensuring that you make a positive and memorable impression on all:
- Prepare for the event. Never go to an event without something to say or talk about.
- Plan your self-introduction. Have a pre-planned self-introduction tailored to the event.
- Take business or social cards with you. Always take your business or social cards with you. They make it easy for others to contact you.
- Dress appropriately for the occasion. When you are dressed appropriately for an occasion, it will make you feel more confident, as well as more comfortable. When you are dressed inappropriately, it will not only make you feel uncomfortable, but it will also make those attending the event uncomfortable.
- Go on time, or no more than fifteen minutes late. If you go late for an event, conversational groups will have already formed, and it will be harder for you to break into conversations.
- Adopt a positive attitude. Think about the benefits of going to the event, and then adopt a positive attitude, because your attitude begins on the inside and shows on the outside.
“Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm; it moves stones, it charms brutes.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton
- Make an entrance. Never rush into a room. Walk in slowly, step to the right of the entrance, smile, and pause for a few minutes before entering the room. Everyone watches the entrance. This is your first opportunity to make a good impression.
- Look approachable. Smile. Make eye contact. Just as important as being able to approach others is looking approachable yourself.
- Break the ice: make small talk. Even though it is called “small talk,” as Michael Korda says, “There is nothing small about small talk. Your shared experience is always a good topic when you want to initiate a conversation with a new person. Talking about the venue, the food, the room, the view, the weather, are all good small talk topics.
- Build rapport. Build rapport before launching into any conversation that involves opinions. Connect first, and after you have established a bond, you can give your opinion about something. Do make it a positive opinion; and tread lightly; social functions are not meant for serious conversations.
- Play the three-three “game.” Make it your mission to meet three new people and find three things in common with those three people. It’s like a fishing expedition: you throw out topics to see which one takes. After you find three things in common with a person, you will have a natural rapport with them. If you don’t, move on to the next person. Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged.
- Avoid asking impolite questions. If you want to avoid being considered rude and lacking in class, do not ask personal questions like, “How old are you?” “Are you married?” “How much money do you make? “Where do you buy your clothes?”
- Know how to handle your cocktail utensils. It is possible to hold a glass—even a cocktail plate with your glass on top of it– in your left hand, while you shake hands with your right hand when you greet another person.
- Eat or talk. If you want to be viewed as a refined and polished socializer, you will certainly not talk with food in your mouth. You can eat or talk—just do not do both at the same time.
- Properly introduce others. Knowing how to properly introduce others will put you far ahead of the crowd. When you incorrectly introduce someone, it can be in insulting to the person you are introducing and embarrassing to the others around you. Introducing others even if you have forgotten the rules, however, is an act of kindness.
- Enter conversations with one person or a group, but not two people. Initiating a conversation with one person is ideal. He or she will be grateful to you for walking up to them and starting a conversation. Walking up to two people engaged in a conversation–particularly if their body language shows that they are very involved in what they are talking about—and interrupting them is rude. (There are certain times, however, when it is okay to quickly say, “Excuse me. I just wanted to say “Hello. I hope to have a chance to talk to you later.” Then walk away.)
- It is not about you; it’s about the other person. Focus on the other person and you will be less self-conscious. Focus on the other person and it will make them feel important. That in turn will make you important to them.
- Be a generous listener. Truly listening to another person is the highest compliment we can pay them. Listen actively with your ears, eyes, and heart. Give signals that you are listening by nodding your head, smiling—if appropriate–and ask questions that follow up what the person has been talking about.
- Avoid being a “close talker.” A “close talker” is an annoying person who doesn’t understand the spatial boundaries of a conversation. Speaking in uncomfortably close proximity—never-more than 18 inches—makes him or her seem pushy and “in your face.” The comfort zone, or the distance that you keep between yourself and friends, is usually one-and-a-half feet to four feet at social gatherings.
- Make a graceful exit. Social events and mingling are not meant for long or serious conversations. We should spend around eight to ten minutes with each person at a social function, according to Miss Manners. We must, however, make our exits graceful, and not just ‘melt’ away from conversations.
- Table Talk. When seated at a table, the only people a guest is actually required to speak to are his neighbors to the left and right. Traditionally, one would speak to the person at one’s right; and then speak to the person on one’s left, avoiding with either any unpleasant or controversial topics. At a business meal, keep in mind that businesss should not be dicussed until the conclusion of the main course.
- Thank the host and/or hostess. Always thank the host and/or hostess before leaving an event. And, in some cases, depending upon the occasion, a telephone call, or hand-written thank-you note should be sent the next day.