Susan RoAne wrote the book on schmoozing. Literally:
How to Work a Room: Your Essential Guide to Savvy Socializing. The recently updated and revised book is a classic because we will all have to walk into “rooms” that contain meetings, conferences, trade shows, business mixers, fundraisers, and parties and be able to schmooze, make connections, and walk out with our heads held up high.
Because you may be using PR firms less, you really need to hone your schmoozing skills. Therefore, I asked Susan to provide her top ten tips of schmoozing.
Think analog, not digital. We still have to interact with people although the digital world has afforded us many ways to stay in touch using technology. We must know how to meet, mingle, make small talk and connect with others in the analog world both in our professional and personal lives. You can IM, text, ping, or Twitter and yet, you will still get invited to an office party or a cousin’s wedding and have to do the face-to-face.
Prepare for every event. We now have many search engines to use to find out about the event, association, company or
organization. Take note of the news on the site, the people highlighted and the news that is noted. Find out who you need to
meet and who you want to meet. Ask your network or the event host to make the introduction.
Determine what you have in common with the other people at that event. When you find that common point, you both will be more comfortable. If you alter your focus and think about making others comfortable with you, they will be.
Prepare a self-introduction. Be ready so that you can introduce yourself if there is no greeting committee. It’s a seven to nine second pleasantry, not a thirty second elevator speech, and key it to the event so others know why you are attending. That will help them figure out what to say to you.
Read voraciously. This means blogs, online newspapers, and even the good old analog print newspaper. Every page of the paper provides news, information, scores, reviews, and even gossip (the newsy kind of schmooze) that is fodder for conversation. Jot down three to five items in case there is a lull and you have something else to add. Don’t forget to read industry journals and national magazines. Other people may have read that interesting article in FastCompany, Forbes or O Magazine! If they haven’t, you can highlight and get the conversation rolling. It’s ok to watch TV, and I often quote Jon Stewart of The Daily Show!
Also, read Truemors everyday. This will make you a better schmoozer because you’ll be on top of the latest news in a broad selection of areas. This will make you the king or queen of small talk (see below).
Approach the person standing alone. He or she will welcome your company. No one, even CEO’s, want to stand in a room by themselves. It just feels dorky.
Just smile and say Hi or Hello. According to research, those are the best opening lines. While we wait for the utterly
brilliant icebreaker to pop into our brains and then to come out of our mouths, the person we may want to meet has already
moved to the opposite side of the room. Depending on your age or crowd, the word “hey” may be the greeting du jour.
Make small talk. Too many of us think that we must be talking the important, deep stuff and consider small talk to be
trivial. Wrong. Author Michael Korda’s Uncle, movie producer Sir Alexander Korda, said, “A bore is someone who
has no small talk.” Small talk is how we learn about our common interests, experiences and connections.
Once you find the
guy who also wears Jerry Garcia ties or kindred deep dish pizza aficionado or the person who also has teenagers, or the
quilter or The Daily Show/Jon Stewart fan or the local senior league hockey player, conversation flows. Remember the last time
you met a person who decided to get right into the “big” talk about famine, disease, war, poverty while you had a beverage in
one hand and a mini taco in the other? Now that’s a bore.
Listen, listen, listen. People tell us about their interests. If we listen and stop planning what to say next, drafting our grocery lists or personals ad, we’d all be better conversationalists. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we are not paying attention if our iPods are in our ears, our Blackberrys or Treos are in our hands or we are waiting for our BlueTooth enabled calls. In fact, doing any of the aforementioned behaviors does send a message to others and it might not serve you in the long run.
Go everywhere with the intention of having fun. People want to be around the upbeat, fun, interesting, and interested person.
Bonus Tip: If you want to make a positive memorable impression, treat people like people not like prospects!