My Mixing, Mingling & Maximizing Your Network workshop is quickly becoming one of my most requested sessions. How to make small talk and the ability to work the room is an art to develop and statistically more of a need to know than ever!
Feeling awkward, tongue-tied, and uncomfortable when needing to mix and mingle? Don't worry that means you are among the majority of people today who feel the same way! As a prime candidate to stretch yourself and grow into a master mingler, here are some of my top tips to practice:
- Making only an appearance requires letting your host know in advance that you want to attend but will not be able to stay – it is important to stay at least 15-30 minutes and take off your coat, making it less obvious to others your time at the event is limited.
- If provided a nametag, it is worn high on the right shoulder – the "sight line," making it easy to read when shaking hands.
- Don't hover near the buffet line or beverage station – that is often where people stand who don't know how to mingle. That is the place to look for people who need "rescued."
- Choose food or a beverage unless there are cocktail tables in the room to rest one of the items while enjoying the other – don't try to balance both.
- The very best mingler only talks about 20% of the time and is exceptional at asking open-ended questions to get everyone else talking.
- Ideally, spend about ten minutes per person or group before moving on to others – not too long or too short of a timeframe.
- When joining an ongoing conversation, don't be interruptive. A smile, a head nod is all that's needed – when the conversation stops, then you can introduce yourself, add comments, etc.
- Present your business card almost as an afterthought right before you exit the conversation – "Steve, it was wonderful to meet you – may I give you my card? I'll look forward to visiting with you again soon." Don't rapid-fire your business cards at mingling events – it comes across as desperate and impersonal.
- Be ready with a few different 30 and10-second commercials – your self-introduction. A self-introduction provides just enough information to keep it interesting as well as enable the asking of questions.
- In advance of any event, do your homework – research who will be there to plan and prepare for conversational topics of interest – to them! And certainly pre-plan meaningful questions designed to target your objectives.
- If you are the host, have a snack in advance of your event so you can focus on your guests rather than the food – don't go hungry to any event.
- When held hostage by someone, don't desert them – instead, use the technique of including them as you continue to work the room. "I need to say hello to Jim Thomas, who has just arrived. May I introduce you?" At some point, they will excuse themselves once they are comfortable working the room alone.
- Alcohol etiquette is critical – knowing your limit and when to switch to club soda. You don't want to be the conversational topic the following day per any misbehaviors or inappropriate gaffes.
- Before going to an event or any group meeting, plan in advance at least 2-3 exciting topics to talk about that are non-polarizing yet will showcase your ability to make small talk.
- As a guest, don't arrive too early for a cocktail hour (it's best to arrive a few minutes after the start time) and always leave by the end time stated on the invitation – your host will love you! And respond within 24-48 hours of receiving the invitation – yes, R.S.V.P.'s are critical.
- Non-verbal communication – establish rescue signals in advance and avoid fidget signals of boredom, nervousness, or discomfort to ensure a successful event. And pay attention to the body language of others - their movements are very telling if you're taking the time to notice.
- Revisit your objective(s) throughout a mingling event to ensure you are meeting yours, and they are meeting theirs - make adjustments as needed while the opportunity is still available.
- And as a guest, don't neglect those thank you notes to be sent immediately after all events expressing your appreciation.
Business building and relationship-building opportunities are at your fingertips if you maximize your social skill set – it should feel seamless and genuine to you and them to move those relationships forward. So get out there and mingle with the best of them!