By Diana Ratliff
Fact One: The world is full of strangers.
Fact Two: "Meeting strangers" is the #1 fear of Americans.
Fact Three: With preparation and practice, it is possible to
stay cool, calm and collected - and even enjoy yourself - at
business mixers, tradeshows, and conventions.
First, do some research. Get some preliminary information.
Visualize the event. Find out who's likely to be there.
Determine your purpose in going. Focus that nervous energy into
planning for a successful outcome.
Then give yourself a mental pep talk. After all, these are
just people you're meeting, with their own problems and
imperfections. That guy driving the Mercedes may be up to his
ears in debt (or as a friend observed, "It doesn't mean he HAS
money. It means he HAD it.") That gal in the designer dress
may have just been diagnosed with cancer.
So lighten up. They're going to this function to meet people,
just like you are.
Of course, once you arrive at the gathering, the real fun
begins. (I'm reminded of Stephen Bayne's famous quote, "I'm
rather like a mosquito at a nudist camp; I know what I ought to
do, but I don't know where to begin.")
Unless you're planning to hide in the bathroom the whole time
or glare at anyone who approaches, you need something to say.
Develop a list of great opening lines. You don't need to be a
smooth talker; your goal is to come across as someone who's
interested n the person you're talking to. That sincerity paves
the way for truly fruitful business and personal relationships.
"So, how do you know (host/hostess name)?" or
"Don't I know you from somewhere?" or
"Are you a member of this organization?"
All are safe, non-threatening questions with the added benefit
of allowing you to look for connections. By the time you've
covered where you were born, where you went to college, and the
organizations you belong to, you'll both probably feel much more
"Excuse me, but I couldn't help but overhear you saying
It's flattering to think that what you're saying is of interest
to others. People will usually welcome your input.
Make it easy for people to approach you as well. Carry around
a book or something unusual to a business mixer. This offers
people a great reason to strike up a conversation. Hang out
near the end of the buffet table, where most people linger.
Make it a point to introduce people to each other.
When it comes time to exchange business cards, advanced
preparation also helps ensure that you leave a great impression.
First, make sure you remembered your classy business card case,
that you have an ample supply of cards, and that the case is in
an easy-to-access location such as a jacket pocket.
And then smile. Look the recipient in the eye.
If you can carry it off, now is the time to present the card
with a little flair. Show off your business card magic trick -
bow and slowwwwwwly present the card - or give a brief,
REHEARSED commercial about your product or service.
Note: Never EVER accompany your card with controversial or
inappropriate comments. That includes swear words, sexual
innuendo or off-color jokes, wisecracks about religion or
politics (including office politics) or ethnic jokes.
If nothing else, a comment such as "I appreciate the chance to
earn your business" is always in good taste. And if you can
offer a sincere compliment, they're sure to remember you with
Still rather have your teeth pulled than talk to a stranger?
If all else fails, and you simply have to attend a gathering you
dread, try one of these ideas.
* Act as if you're not nervous. I don't know how this helps,
but the effect is real. (Remember the song "Whistle A Happy
Tune" from the movie "The King and I"? Same principle.)
* Make an agreement with yourself that you can leave after
you've talked to five people. Talking to just five people sounds
much less threatening. And by the time you've talked to number
four, you may have found a reason to stay.
Successful schmoozing comes with practice. And that practice
can really pay off in establishing new friendships - and larger
bank balances too.
Make the Most of Networking
Networking is indispensable these days, but if you go to business events and
no one remembers you afterward, you've wasted your time. Such contacts only
work if you make yourself memorable. Here are some strategies that let you walk into a room with quiet
self-assurance, confident that people will enjoy meeting you and recall you
an Extra Edge at Networking Events
We all attend events promoted as the perfect format to make new contacts and develop potential business relationships. I never stop being amazed how many talented and well-educated people often do not know how to maximize these events.
Here are two easy ways you can make the most of networking events.
Impressions on Small Audiences?
Outside your home, ALL speaking is public speaking.
Many people are less intimidated when they prepare for a speech than when they must communicate off the cuff in more informal settings. But conversations on the elevator or at the water cooler can do as much to boost your career as giving a formal presentation. How do you master impromptu meetings and on-the-spot interaction?