While meeting new people and making new business connections can be nerve-racking to those who are uncomfortable in social settings, it's not as difficult as you think. All great conversationalists put effort into their dialogue in order to come across as interesting and engaging. Mingling skills can be taught and those that learn them, and then put them into practice, will reap the benefits and rewards. As anxious as you may feel, most people are experiencing similar emotions. What's the big secret to making a favorable impression on others? Shifting the focus off of yourself and demonstrating interest in the other person. Here are seven ways to come across as appealing and likable at your next networking event.
- Focus on looking approachable. Show that you are interested in meeting others through your facial expression and body language. In other words, smile. It's the perfect antidote to feeling nervous or awkward. Some people have a default expression that looks downright icy. Be aware of your uncomfortable "resting face" and add some spark and dazzle into your expressions.
- Ask questions and foster dialogue. One foolproof way to come across as a brilliant communicator is to include open-ended questions. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, especially to someone who appears genuinely interested. Use this technique as a way to keep a conversation flowing, but avoid an invasive inquisition. Magnetic people cultivate conversation where both parties have a chance to contribute. Be careful not to turn a friendly exchange into a speech where you hold your new acquaintance as a captive audience member.
- Dress your best. Understand the type of affair you will be attending and research the dress code expectations. Even at a casual pre-conference mixer, fit into the environment by wearing something that gives you the confidence of looking your best. It's hard to relax when you are distracted by feeling under or overdressed at a networking luncheon or fundraiser.
- Be armed with a few conversation starters. Study up on the lighter side of current events and get familiar with the latest movie reviews or popular television shows. Don't bring up news that can lead to a negatively charged discussion. Stay observant; you might find interesting topics to talk about right in front of you. For example, the great food being served, the beautiful venue, the amazing artwork on display or even a piece of jewelry being worn by the hostess.
- Walk up to a group. Instead of waiting for someone to approach you, join an existing conversation by saying, "May I join you? My name is Sarah Smith and I'm looking forward to meeting new people tonight." If someone is standing by themselves, walk up to them, extend your hand for a handshake, and introduce yourself. They will be grateful for a friendly face and you will feel satisfied that you overcame your hesitation.
- Stay focused. Give the person, or group, your undivided attention. For the duration of the festivities, turn your cell phone off, avoid checking your watch and ignore the clock on the wall. Immerse yourself in putting forth creative energy to leave a strong and lasting impression. It's not necessary to be the life of the party, simply be a good listener that makes others comfortable to be around them.
- Leave the conversation gracefully. When you are ready to move on to meet other people, exit by excusing yourself to freshen your drink or to say hello to someone else. Once again, extend your hand for a good-bye greeting. The role of a good guest is to mix and mingle with others, not stick to one person like glue until the end of the party. Your goal as a great guest is to make your host glad he or she invited you. Make every effort to sing for your supper!