In every man’s life, there comes a time where business meets social. Here, professionals wander awkwardly around a room sipping alcohol and exchanging business cards. In these trying times, I offer a few tips to navigate such ambiguous terrains!
- Approaching: Approach from the side. Coming from the back is too creepy and coming from the front is too aggressive (double entendre intended).
- Opening: Have a short (15 second) spiel about “who” you are and “what” you are seeking. For instance, “Hi, I’m Ernesto – I’m currently a financial analyst looking to switch into management consulting.”
- During the conversation: Address the speaker by name once they introduce themselves – it adds a touch of class and shows you are listening. Don’t whip out your phone at any time and actively listen. By doing this, you show serious interest in what the other person has to say and allows you to delve into subjects and ideas that pique your interest. Also, ask open-ended questions rather than just simple yes and no questions. (“What are your thoughts on the recent company merger?” vs. “Do you like working in Houston?”)
- Body position: Keep an open body position. For instance, think of two people sitting across from each other in a restaurant – this is a closed body position – they are facing each other, making it harder for other to jump in the conversation. Now think of two people sitting at a 90 degree angle to each other. This is an open body position that’s easy to approach for others. Now, just do this standing up. Additionally, this position is natural if you approach from the side. The reason this is important is because you want to meet as many people as you can – you want it to be easy for others to jump into the conversation. An open body position will accomplish this.
- Involve others: Bring other people into the conversation using the body position tactic and introducing yourself as well as the person you initially came to talk to. Give them your name, the other person’s name, and a short spiel about what you were talking about. “Hi, I’m Ernesto and this is Tiffany. We were just talking about how to convert from a financial analyst to a management consulting position.”
- Build/Break rapport: This may sound weird since humans do it naturally, but building rapport is all about mimicking body language. Smiling, nodding, and laughing together will build rapport easily. Even mimicking hand gestures and such will show the person that you are into the conversation. Furthermore, breaking rapport such as turning away will signal an end to the conversation. If you have gotten what you need and want to move to another person, rock your feet as if you are about to leave, shake hands, and thank the person for his time.
- If you are lost for words: Prepare a set of questions to ask and revert back to that if you run out of things to say. Alternatively, point out something visual until you can jog your mind about what you need to say next. There are many options here – you can ask about someone else in the room (“Is he someone you work with?”) or just a simple (“This lounge is great – have you ever been before?).