After an hour-long car ride, we had finally made it to little Anna’s first birthday party – a party that promised to be a fun-filled 4-5 hours of socializing with strangers I had only met once before. If you’re like me, the idea of being forced into socializing with strangers for any extended period of time can be nerve-racking.
I’ve always been nervous in large crowds, whether it’s for a work function or a family get-together. The prospect of talking to strangers and trying to find common ground is like signing up for a series of blind speed dates – well, maybe not quite that bad.
However, upon arrival, I had decided to attempt a new strategy. I’ve been trying to build upon my networking skills, so of course I bought a book on the topic: “Networking like a pro” by Dr. Ivan Misner. The book is chock-full of great content, but one strategy stood out from the rest …
Act like the host when you’re just the guest.
I decided to test-drive this strategy to see what the outcome would be – I figured it would make the party more interesting at the very least. So what was the outcome?
Well, as soon as we walked in, I made an effort to start from the right of the room introducing myself as well as my fiancée. I had several quick stories on hand in case I encountered an awkward silence as well as smooth transitions to guide the conversation to something more interesting.
The amazing thing is that this worked like a charm!
By the end of the day, I had socialized with practically everyone at some point, sharing the same 2-3 stories and jokes about finalizing our wedding plans. And as the party ended, I noticed that nearly everyone tried to make an effort to say goodbye to the both of us. Since I had shared so much about our wedding plans, everyone felt as if they had gotten to know us a bit.
3 takeaways points from this experiment:
1. How to exit a conversation that’s going nowhere – If you are acting like the host, you can offer to grab them food or refill their drink. When you come back with the refill, you can merely drop it off and circle to the next group at the party, thus providing you with a graceful exit.
2. How to keep people’s attention when telling a story – I tend to exaggerate the details a bit. I am not encouraging lying, but people want to be entertained, so I don’t see any harm in giving them a reason to listen. Also, smile while talking; this seems to put people at ease and makes them smile too!
3. How to keep a conversation going when the subject runs dry – Try to move on to a more personal topic like hobbies, vacations spots and favorite restaurants. Another way to keep them engaged is to try and find out something they have a lot of knowledge on and ask them for insight. Take a genuine interest and you’ll be surprised how hard it is to get them to stop talking once they’ve started.
Am I a master networker? No. Do I still have to motivate myself to talk to strangers? Absolutely, but I think that using this strategy is a great way to make the time pass and even make a few new friends in the process.
What about you? What tips have helped you in large social events?