Excerpts from: How To Work A Room…Tips on ‘Social Graces’ – the one thing you need that an MBA can’t give you By Larry Chiang
1. Be more of a host and less of a guest.
There are two types of people at a party: hosts and guests. People like hosts more because they make introductions, and make people more comfortable. Guests tend to need attention and maintenance.
2. Avoid permanently joining a “rock pile.” A rock pile is a pack of people in a tight circle. It’s natural to huddle because it makes us feel safe, but it borders on anti-social.
3. Dress for the party. The more junior you are, the better you should dress.
4. Don’t “hotbox”. Hotboxing is squaring the shoulders front and center to one person. In groups one person will often “hotbox” the target/VIP of the group. Hotboxing in a one-on-one conversation is OK, but it excludes others from joining.
5. Put your coat and bag down. Your coat is non-verbal communication that you: a) need a shield; b) just got there; c) don’t trust the host’s coat check; d) are not healthy enough to keep your body at 98.6; e) are imminently about to leave. Women can be forgiven for keeping a purse, but it’s a networking sin for a man to keep a ‘man-purse’ (i.e. backpack, tote- or laptop-bag).
6. Mentor someone about your–or your company’s–core competence. Since Duck9 educates college students about FICO scores and debt minimization, I have networking talking points on FICO scores and the urban legends that surround them. It transitions nicely from the what-do-you-do-for-work question. It also adds some substance to party conversations and clearly brands you as a person. I’m the duck dude, with the magnet for a card, that does credit education.
7.Don’t forget to get mentored as well. A great guy I know has one rule for social-professional success: his party goal is to learn three new things at every event. It is very effective. He tilts his head like my shih tzu and gets all sorts of credit for being a great listener.
8. Be a good host while you’re someone else’s guest. Say ‘Hi’ to wall flowers. I once saw a tier-1 celebrity work the fringe of the room. He must’ve said ‘Hi’ to 12 wallflowers. Actors don’t get paid to act, they get paid to promote. As entrepreneurs, we better promote ourselves by being gracious to everyone. This means making introductions, too. Introduce a junior person to a senior person. Include one positive snipet about both as you do so: “Sarah, I’d like to introduce Hazel, she started Fashion4 and also leads the “Ladies Who Launch” here in Silicon Valley. Hazel, this is my friend Sarah whom I told you about from…”
9. Managing the party host. When you’re interacting with the host, ask simple questions requiring a ‘Yes/No’ response. I’ve heard disastrous questions in a vain attempt to out alpha-male the host. The best questions to ask of a host are upbeat, light and fluffy. If you want to be Mike Wallace/Chris Matthews with a hardball question, tread lightly. Also, help your host wiggle by wrangling them away from guests who are monopolizing or “hotboxing” them. They will thank you later.
10. Always, always, always: Thank the host before you leave.