Recently, I’ve talked a lot about how to avoid traditional networking events and still build your network (see: You Don’t Need Networking Events).
But that isn’t always possible. Maybe your boss sends you to an industry mixer. Maybe you’re at a conference with several networking breaks. Sooner or later, most of us will find ourselves in an environment that requires mingling skills.
When that happens, why not make the most of the opportunity, rather than lurking in a corner nursing a drink until we can sneak out? Mingling can produce and/or build good connections, if done well. So the question is: how?
I recently came across a book called The Art of Mingling, by Jeanne Martinet. It doesn’t speak to the deeper and more meaningful aspects of networking that I find most important. It does, however, offer a lot of really good practical tips and tricks for working a room. Here are just a few:
The Invisible Man:
This one is useful at any point when you find yourself alone during a mingling experience, but especially when you first arrive. As the book explains,
“Nobody is looking at you. Everybody is too busy worrying about themselves. The Invisible Man fantasy merely capitalizes on this basic fact, but takes it one step further. Ready? You’re just not there. You don’t exist….Now, ‘invisible’ as you are, you are free to unselfconsciously walk around the room, looking at everyone, looking at …the whole scene – with total relaxation. This gives you time to catch your breath, psychologically, until you feel ready to become visible again and enter the conversational clique of your choice.”
Risk-Free Opening Lines:
Some samples from the book:
- “This music reminds me of my childhood/high school/college days”
- “So what was your day like today?”
- “I just love this place”
The Five Laws of Survival:
These are Martinet’s guiding principles for escaping a conversation that’s run its course. Here they are, briefly
- It’s okay to tell a (white) lie
- No one knows what you are really thinking
- The other person is thinking primarily about him(or her)self
- It’s better to escape from someone than have someone escape from you
- Change equals movement; movement equals change
This is a very small sampling of the practical ideas in the book. We explore and practice more at our We Hate Networking Meetup that focuses on this topic. I also bring a copy of the book for everyone to take a look at.
If you try any of the techniques out in the real world, let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your stories.