This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur” features an interview with mingling maven Susan RoAne, author of “How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Making Lasting Connections.” Her book has sold over 1 million copies worldwide and is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Ask the Mompreneur
You've been teaching people “How to Work a Room” for quite a while now. What advice do you have for people who want to connect and network with others at all of the holiday parties and gatherings at this time of year?
The holidays are the perfect time to connect and reconnect with colleagues, co-workers, classmates, and friends and grow your network. When the invitation arrives, the first step is to RSVP “yes” and GO!
You can prepare for any holiday event by going to your favorite search engine or LinkedIn to learn about the other guests so that you don’t feel you are walking in to a gathering of “strangers”. You can also read your local paper to get an overview of what’s going on in your community and gather conversation topics.
Once you’ve done your homework in this fashion, just remember to bring your O.A.R. If you find yourself wondering how to start and maintain a conversation with people you’ve just met, the solution is to Observe, Ask, and Reveal. And listen, listen, listen.
Look around and observe the room. Who’s wearing the Christmas tree tie or the Santa hat? Where are people positioned? Do you recognize any of the guests? Was the weather cooperative? Was the traffic or the parking difficult? That’s always an ice-breaker because it’s a shared (possibly frustrating) experience.
Observations about any of these things may be good conversation starters. If someone is wearing a stunning necklace or pin, they are inviting us to make a comment.
Ask a question
The questions you ask should be relevant but not probing. You can ask questions such as:
- Is this the first time you’ve attended one of Joe’s Hashtag Holiday events?
- Do you have special plans for the holidays?
- How do you know our host, Jane?
This is also the perfect time to ask people if they have favorite holiday foods and traditions. Ideally, you’ll stumble on a topic about which your conversational partner is enthusiastic, and a natural flow will take over. Avoid peppering people with too many questions in a row.
Reveal something relevant
Once you’ve observed and asked about the other person, you’ll want to reveal something about yourself that’s relevant to the conversation, such as your own favorite holiday movie if that’s what you’ve been chatting about.
Disclosing something personal is a good way to invite others to get to know you better, and possibly ask you a question. You might even choose to share something unusual like the fact that you love fruitcake so much that you made one that you basted nightly for a month.
If you’re looking for a new position, this is a good time to reveal that you are job hunting for a particular type of opportunity. That gives others an opportunity to think of how they can help you. And that, of course, is a theme of the holiday: generously helping others.
The holiday party is a time of celebration, joy, good food, and good will. Go with the intention of having a good time and the room will work you!
Jennie Wong, Ph.D. is a business coach and the founder of www.CartCentric.com, a friendsourcing tool for online shopping.