Working a room…if only it could be fun…or at least guaranteed productive. I am referring to that mandatory event that requires us to mix and mingle, to meet and greet.
Command performance events like a cocktail party, a business dinner, or a charity event can feel stiff and uncomfortable. Very few people actually enjoy walking into a room full of strangers.
So why put yourself through that torture? Well, for one thing, Nathan Keyfitz, professor of sociology at Harvard observes, “Social skills will be of even greater importance for economic success in the future. The most successful people will be those who can communicate and connect best.”
Put another way, it’s free advertising, and you control the entire message. Is it sometimes uncomfortable? Absolutely, but the upside is huge. The more you put yourself in networking situations, the easier it becomes and the greater the professional, social, and personal benefits.
Here is a condensed guide for working a room:
Approach every networking opportunity with the attitude that it is going to be fun. While no single event is guaranteed to change your life, any single event could. Remember, success is measured by percentages, not perfection. Who isn’t attracted to someone who is smiling, laughing, and enjoying him or herself!
Be Prepared. Be clear about your objectives. Keep focus on your purpose in being there. Don’t be easily distracted from the outcome you have in mind.
Next, don’t wait for others to approach you. Yes, I know it is a bit uncomfortable for some, perhaps you. So think about how great you feel when someone takes the initiative to walk up to you and introduces themselves. Then you do the same.
Acquire and practice several good conversation openers. The best technique is the art of asking intelligent questions that convey the impression there is depth and style to your personality. Show them that they could benefit by getting spending more time with you.
When you make an interesting contact, focus all your attention on that single person. Don’t let your eyes wander around the room. Keep eye contact and actively listen. Give that person the sense that you have been waiting all evening just to meet them. In other words, make them feel important.
Learn the art of small talk. Call it chit-chat or even foreplay if you like. Its purpose is to put people at ease. It starts with finding an area of common interest. This means knowing just the right questions to ask, and at precisely the right moment. Always remember, small talk doesn’t teach, preach, or try to impress. It is just light and easy conversation.
Do your homework. If possible review the names of the people attending, their spouses or partners, their affiliations. If you can recall any prior contacts, refer to that to open the conversation. That will appreciate the fact that you remember.
Finally, common sense tells us not to arrive late, drink too much, dress too casually, or push your agenda excessively. Don’t glue yourself to one person the whole night just because they are fascinating, mingle.
Few things personally or professionally happen by accident. Consider going to your next command performance (that’s what it is) totally prepared. Then watch how much fun you can have when you know why you are there and can tell your story with style and humor, persuasively.
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