Over drinks with some PR pros at our last mediabistro PR party, we ended up chatting about how a few in attendance could’ve used some pointers on how to “work a room.”
So, after the jump, five tips on how to better “work the room” at the next event you find yourself at.
1. Have a Game Plan. Decide how many people you want to meet and how much time you want to give each encounter. Keep in mind that it’s not always a quantity vs. quality game. Depending on what you know in advance about who is in attendance (do background research on the companies if you can), you may want to introduce yourself to as many people possible or perhaps select two or three people with whom you would like to invest more of the time. Be at ease knowing that everyone is in the same situation you are so don’t hesitate to approach anyone at the event. Bring a notepad to write down information that you may need to refer to later: your messages, information about you learn about your new contact, new ideas. Plan to exchange business cards.
2. Ask, Listen and Summarize. An effective way to make a good, positive first impression is to “communicate with your ears” â€“ start by asking questions and listening intently. Ask follow-ups to show that you’ve heard him or her and are interested. Remember, everyone is at the event to tell his or her story and people generally appreciate your immediate curiosity. This person may not be able to give you direct business but they certainly can be a referral. Start the conversation by asking what brings him or her to that party. Become aware of their interests and repeat something important that he or she said. Highlight what the two of you have in common and lead into your “elevator pitch.”
3. Elevator Pitch. Prepare and rehearse two or three specific messages (a thirty second speech) using brief anecdotes and examples to illustrate your point. Also have a couple of “open ended questions” related your messages in your bag of tricks to intrigue your new acquaintance. Before the event, write all of this in your notepad and study it. Subtly refer to your messages throughout the evening as needed.
4. Don’t be a Wallflower. Often people stay within their comfort zone and talk to one or two people all night. Refer back to your goal and don’t get stuck talking to the same person. Buddy-up with someone you’ve quickly built a rapport with (or a friend you came with) and approach new clusters of people together. Compliment and talk each other up as you make introductions. This can boost confidence and ensure that you make it all the way around the room. When moving on, tell those that you’ve met that you will be in touch and mean it! After each conversation, step away and discreetly write a few bullets about what you discussed in your notepad.
5. Follow up. Send your new contact an email telling him or her it was pleasure to meet them at the event, what you learned from the conversation, and why you think it would be good to keep in touch. Refer to your notes on the person’s interests (professional and personal) and find a way to tie those into the email. Be sure to keep the relationship alive by setting reminders to follow up regularly.