10 tips to shine at a social event

Focus on the mission. There may be fabulous people, free food and good wine at the event you are attending, but it’s also an opportunity to get in front of people you want to meet, encounter new people and refresh existing relationships. The pros call it “working the room.”

You believe the best way to get in front of high-net-worth individuals is to become part of their world. You have joined four of the community organizations that often attract them. You might be a member of the local museum, a supporter of the animal shelter, an active member of your college alumni association and a paid-up member of the chamber of commerce. There are plenty of others.

All of these organizations hold events that draw a crowd. Some hold events monthly; others less frequently. You attend at least one event per month for each organization. To squeeze the most from your networking time, try one of these 10 tips:

  1. Know who you want to meet. Most people in the room might qualify to be clients, but there are a few superstars. They might be business leaders or influential members of the community. Will they be attending? A little research beforehand should provide the answer.
    Tip: Know who you want to meet beforehand and what they look like.
  2. Dress well. You are successful so look the part. People make decisions about other people within a few seconds. This can be before you even approach them and say a word.
    Tip: Be presentable. Come across as someone who is part of their world.
  3. Get in front of them. Social prospecting is like dating. You need to get out of your chair and ask someone to dance if you hope to date them someday. Once you see the person you want to meet, get up and make the first move. Talk to them.
    Tip: Here are three approaches: Ask someone you know for an introduction, walk up and mention the name of a friend in common who is someone you both know, or offer a compliment.
  4. Prepare for the icebreaker questions. “Where do you live” and “What do you do” are the standard questions people ask when starting a conversation with a stranger. You need ready answers for each one.
    Tip: Be proud of your profession and firm. Do not dwell on talking about yourself. Take an interest in them and draw them out.
  5. Don’t push business. You are making a social connection. If you start talking about business and sizing them up as a prospect, alarm bells go off in their head. It has happened to them before.
    Tip: People who immediately start pushing business come across as desperate. In the dating world, desperate people don’t get dates. In social and business settings, the opposite of desperate is successful. Successful people like to know other successful people.
  6. Draw them out. People love talking about themselves. You are learning about them, their interests and their opinions. You can share your own experiences or ask questions to keep the conversation going.
    Tip: Repeating back the main points of something they just said demonstrates you were listening. People like that.
  7. Find a shared interest. Ideally, you have more than one. People with a hobby or special interest enjoy talking about it with fellow enthusiasts or someone with a sincere interest in learning.
    Tip: A shared interest establishes the rationale for getting together at another time.
  8. Set a goal to meet six new people at every event. This will be tough. It takes work. You want to kick back, relax and let your hair down. Disengage from one conversation, move around and start another.
    Tip: Conversations with new people reach an awkward moment when you both run out of things to say. Not leaving can make you seem clingy, so wrap up the conversation while you both are having a good time.
  9. Say hello to people you met previously. You will come across people you met a month ago. Stop, say hello and chat. They might not have business potential, but they could still be good friends.
    Tip: Being polite and chatting dispels the suspicion you are a social climber or only looking for people with business potential.
  10. Reconnect before leaving. The parking valet station and the coat check counter are two opportunities to chat. As you’re waiting with other people from the event, let them know you enjoyed chatting and mention your shared interests. Let them know you would like to stay in touch, and then stop talking. Let them make the next move.
    Tip: If they offer a business card or provide contact details in another way, I like to take my business card, write my home phone number on the back along with “fellow wine fan” or another reminder of what we talked about.

Remember to make notes in private about the people you met. Do it that day when the details are fresh. The next day, add these notes to others you have made about new friends you met previously. Now it has been both an enjoyable and productive evening.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon. You can hear more from him in his 2022 MDRT Annual Meeting Focus Session, How to dress, talk and fit in with wealthy people,” on Monday, June 27.

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