Socializing in a professional setting – the art of mixing and mingling – is about networking and building rapport with others. As you begin to attend social events with attorneys, the following tips will help you master this important art.
1. Remember the Purpose: Going to a networking event is all about meeting new people and building relationships. Sitting with friends and colleagues defeats that purpose. Be prepared to venture out on your own and introduce yourself. Keep in mind that the reason you are there is to meet people; a business social event is never about the food or the open bar!
2. Have a Plan: Decide how many new people you would like to meet at the event. Keeping it to a reasonable number, such as three to five new people, will assist you in accomplishing your goal. Have topics/questions ready that you plan to use as conversation starters. Plan how you will introduce yourself and what you want people to know about you. Creating goals for the events will help you feel more prepared and at ease.
3. At the Event: Be punctual and dress appropriately for the event. Make a point of greeting the host or hostess. If nametags are provided, be sure to wear yours on the right shoulder so that when you shake hands, your name will be clearly visible to the other person. Offer a firm hand shake with your self-introduction and look for connections with the other person. Carry your purse or drink in your left hand, leaving your right hand available to greet others. You may balance your glass on your plate using your thumb to secure the base of the glass to the plate allowing you to keep your beverage and your food in your left hand. Another option is to eat and drink separately.
4. Making Conversation: Listen for potential conversation topics during introductions. Stick to pleasant, non-controversial topics including interests, travel, sports, and current affairs – avoid politics. Ask open-ended questions, listen to answers, and respond. Do not exclude any one from the conversation. If you make a connection with someone, feel free to offer your business card. This will often be followed up by receiving a business card. Excuse yourself within 5 -10 minutes and continue mingling, don’t monopolize the attorney.
5. Merging: If it seems like everyone else is already engaged in a conversation, you may need to “merge” into a conversational group. Never break in on an intense conversation. However, if you see a group of three or more people, stand close and give facial feedback to the conversation. Once eye contact or verbal acknowledgement has been received, join the conversation. Be open to others who want to join the conversation – allowing them to “merge”.
6. Move from Guest behavior to Host behavior: Hosts have something to do, guests take an inactive role. By moving to Host behavior you put yourself and others at ease. Hosts meet people, start conversations, and introduce others. Guests let others take their coat, introduce them to others, and have others “wait” upon them. Hosts make their guest feel comfortable and show consideration.
Using Host behavior at a social event means that first you survey the room – where are the guests, refreshments, restroom, outside conversation areas, etc. The event’s organizers have planned for conversation and eating areas, the “flow” of guests from one place to another, and a schedule of activities for the evening – be mindful of the system and assist others in following it. Approach others for self-introductions – show sincerity. Bring others together – introduce someone you have met to someone else you know. Offer to refill someone’s beverage or take someone’s coat. This keeps you actively involved and creates a positive impression of a confident and helpful professional.
7. Follow up: This is a most important step. After the event, be sure to thank the host/hostess. Send an email to that special connection you made. Invite attorneys you met to connect with you on LinkedIn. Networking is always a two-way street, show that you are will doing your part.