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June 01, 2007

The Art of Schmoozing II

How to Work a Room, Revised Edition_ Your Essential Guide to Savvy Socializing_ Books_ Susan RoAne.jpg

Susan RoAne wrote the book on schmoozing. Literally: How to Work a Room: Your Essential Guide to Savvy Socializing. The recently updated and revised book is a classic because we will all have to walk into “rooms” that contain meetings, conferences, trade shows, business mixers, fundraisers, and parties and be able to schmooze, make connections, and walk out with our heads held up high.

Because you may be using PR firms less, you really need to hone your schmoozing skills. Therefore, I asked Susan to provide her top ten tips of schmoozing.

  1. Think analog, not digital. We still have to interact with people although the digital world has afforded us many ways to stay in touch using technology. We must know how to meet, mingle, make small talk and connect with others in the analog world both in our professional and personal lives. You can IM, text, ping, or Twitter and yet, you will still get invited to an office party or a cousin’s wedding and have to do the face-to-face.

  2. Prepare for every event. We now have many search engines to use to find out about the event, association, company or organization. Take note of the news on the site, the people highlighted and the news that is noted. Find out who you need to meet and who you want to meet. Ask your network or the event host to make the introduction.

  3. Determine what you have in common with the other people at that event. When you find that common point, you both will be more comfortable. If you alter your focus and think about making others comfortable with you, they will be.

  4. Prepare a self-introduction. Be ready so that you can introduce yourself if there is no greeting committee. It’s a seven to nine second pleasantry, not a thirty second elevator speech, and key it to the event so others know why you are attending. That will help them figure out what to say to you.

  5. Read voraciously. This means blogs, online newspapers, and even the good old analog print newspaper. Every page of the paper provides news, information, scores, reviews, and even gossip (the newsy kind of schmooze) that is fodder for conversation. Jot down three to five items in case there is a lull and you have something else to add. Don’t forget to read industry journals and national magazines. Other people may have read that interesting article in FastCompany, Forbes or O Magazine! If they haven’t, you can highlight and get the conversation rolling. It’s ok to watch TV, and I often quote Jon Stewart of The Daily Show!

    Also, read Truemors everyday. This will make you a better schmoozer because you’ll be on top of the latest news in a broad selection of areas. This will make you the king or queen of small talk (see below).

  6. Approach the person standing alone. He or she will welcome your company. No one, even CEO’s, want to stand in a room by themselves. It just feels dorky.

  7. Just smile and say Hi or Hello. According to research, those are the best opening lines. While we wait for the utterly brilliant icebreaker to pop into our brains and then to come out of our mouths, the person we may want to meet has already moved to the opposite side of the room. Depending on your age or crowd, the word “hey” may be the greeting du jour.

  8. Make small talk. Too many of us think that we must be talking the important, deep stuff and consider small talk to be trivial. Wrong. Author Michael Korda’s Uncle, movie producer Sir Alexander Korda, said, “A bore is someone who has no small talk.” Small talk is how we learn about our common interests, experiences and connections.

    Once you find the guy who also wears Jerry Garcia ties or kindred deep dish pizza aficionado or the person who also has teenagers, or the quilter or The Daily Show/Jon Stewart fan or the local senior league hockey player, conversation flows. Remember the last time you met a person who decided to get right into the “big” talk about famine, disease, war, poverty while you had a beverage in one hand and a mini taco in the other? Now that’s a bore.

  9. Listen, listen, listen. People tell us about their interests. If we listen and stop planning what to say next, drafting our grocery lists or personals ad, we’d all be better conversationalists. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we are not paying attention if our iPods are in our ears, our Blackberrys or Treos are in our hands or we are waiting for our BlueTooth enabled calls. In fact, doing any of the aforementioned behaviors does send a message to others and it might not serve you in the long run.

  10. Go everywhere with the intention of having fun. People want to be around the upbeat, fun, interesting, and interested person.

Bonus Tip: If you want to make a positive memorable impression, treat people like people not like prospects!


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Great advice, but don't bother to buy the book. It doesn't say anything beyond what you can read in the blog and comments. After reading this blog, I went out and bought the book and was disappointed; there just isn't enough to "working a room" to fill a book.

I learned to work a room after talking to a sales guy who was terrific at it and saying "Wow, that comes so easy to you." He said "What, are you kidding? It's hard every single time, but I make myself do it because it's my job." Once I knew it was hard for even the best, I realized it wasn't some natural talent, but something you learn.

Susan RoAne doesn't know it, but she's saved my (emotional) life countless times. I read that book after leaving yet another disastrous party hours early, and it completely changed the way I look at these things.

One piece of advice I loved: play host - not in a presumptuous way, but making the little gestures that ease others' discomfort. Offer to freshen someone's drink; make an introduction; make sure someone got their name tag or convention kit. It's amazing how quickly you can start to feel confident in that role.

If you have trouble schmoozing a room, join a Toastmasters Club for awhile. Schmoozing is public speaking, just one-on-one or small group. Toastmasters clubs provide a wonderful environment to practice the skills for you elevator speech and otherwise obtaining your communication goals. Googling "Toastmasters" hits the organization's main website, which contains a directory of all the clubs worldwide and their meeting particulars (locations, times, contact person).

I loved the bonus tip and it's the best one out of the list:

Bonus Tip: If you want to make a positive memorable impression, treat people like people not like prospects

Gloden rule!

Plenty of evidence of the obvious benefits your post brought for a host of folk. I'll add my thanks also.

In dark premordial days when we didn't have mentors, Schmooze gurus, mobiles, and only a few high-minded tomes on 'how to win friends and influence people' in libraries and dusty bookshops ...

Meetings were full of people behaving in weird, cool, obnoxious, drugged, aggressive, not-like-me ways. And that was just business meetings. Buyers looking for sellers and vice-versa. And that was just social meetings.

Happen we didn't learn much, pass much on...

If I'd time again: People think you are interesting if you think they are interesting. Like almost everyone else I was far too busy trying to make myself the most interesting pony in the ring ...with the best tricks.

I appreciate this post! I wanted to mention that I'm a firm believer in #6 Approach the Person Standing Alone. I learned that trick in Jr. High when I was a loner myself...I decided that I needed to make an effort to befriend anyone else who was alone so then there would be 2 of us. It works every single time. Also, before attending an event where you know there will be bloggers, its always good to be up on the latest posts because at least in our SLC geek community event conversation ends up discussing YOURs, Seth's, and others...including each others. And lastly, it seems obvious, but so many people don't have a business card...its an essential piece that demonstrates you are serious about what you do and want people to remember you.
Make a Wish, Make it Happen,
Kelly, StartUpPrincess.com

Guy -- Good list to start one's prep on.

For those not so sure how to approach a group that is already formed, you might want to check out this podcast from Manager-Tools.com "How to Politely Become Part of a Group" (http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/11/how-to-politely-become-part-of-a-group/).

It works. I've used it several times.


Is networking really that difficult? As long as you make sure you are treating the other person with utmost etiquette, then you should be fine. And as the list points, treat them like people and they will respect you back.

What I have found out is that it's difficult to work the room in the beginning for me, but after I've talked to someone and warmed up, then I'm on fire. Since I happen to talk relatively loudly (I'm that way ever since I was born, I don't do it purposely), it usually attracts other people to the group. And make sure you are saying something worthwhile that the other person would like to listen to.

Also, to the person who said don't talk to other if you can't figure out why you are talking to them is utter nonsense. I don't talk to other people because I need to immediately get something out of them. I'm looking for potential friendships, potential team members for my company etc. I'm working to make these long-term relationships. Therefore, it may not be evident that I should be talking to them in the first meeting, but who knows, maybe in the next few years, it may turn out to be a great partnership.

Exiting the conversation is difficult if everyone else is talking and you can't subtly spot a lonely wolf among the pack. If I'm talking to a group, then it's great to discreetly shy away. That can only happen if you have talked to these people before and already have their contact information. Otherwise, you will interrupt the conversation if you need to get their contact info and exit. Usually, I just tell them that I need to get a drink or take a call. That works well.

Great list! I'm always amazed about how easy it is to engage people in conversations. Timing is crucial though. If the room's already working without you, it's harder to work the room even with a simple "Hey." I therefore always try to be early and warm up with the other early birds. There's nothing more socially appealing than being with a group of people.

One aspect is missing from Guy's list: how to effectively and politely end a conversation and move on to the next target. This is a high art and usually distinguishes the experienced schmoozer. The best tactic for me is still to pull other people into the conversation and then discreetly disappear. If no one is near, then I try the old "Let's get a drink..." and wander off into the sunset. ;)

I would add one thing to this list, I attended a networking event a few years back with what I didn't know was an alcoholic sales rep working for me at the time. At the end of the night, he had passed out (fell flat on the floor) and I had to drag him out. So if wine is available, be sure NOT to bring an alcoholic with you to the event!

ps: Guy, you got nothing to apologize for evangelizing your own products in your posts!

Standard and great information. I'm still learning to network and shmooze better constantly. It has a lot to do with confidence and asking the right questions that bring up interesting topics. You can ask how what they are doing makes money. This is a good question sometimes because it can get the other person thinking about their business or the companies business model. And even if it isn't in your industry, you can learn something.

I like the last suggestion "Go everywhere with the intention of having fun. People want to be around the upbeat, fun, interesting, and interested person."
Good tips!

I agree about the Bluetooth headset thing... If you're not security, you should not have cr@p sticking out your ears. And guys over 35, that also means ear hair. Your Norelco and some tweezers every few days (and especially before a big social networking event) can fix that.

Guy -

It may help your readers if you link information on men's style and etiquette. I find that Esquire Magazine usually has well-written, well-organized tips.

Hi, I would like introduce you the sec.un.dum (http://www.secundum.com.br). It looks like a Brazilian Technorati which pays for post's bloggers. In the last month, sec.un.dum paied 2.4 dollars for each post in the 100 more visited list. This month it will pay 5 dollars. The site is a blog community for portuguese content.

It's a fine balancing act.
Sometimes over personalizing has a detrimental effect.

Carmelo Lisciotto

"Working a room" is a special skill that one has embedded in one's personality. Trying this hard according to these silly suggestions is likely going against the grain of your own personality and will likely come off as rehearsed as all of this sounds. I fantasize about being so adept as to work a room, but I can't. It's just not who I am, I kind of have to accept it. This book will not make a schmoozer out of someone who's not.

Politicians are born not made.

Just be yourself. If you aren't a great reader or an elegant person you can't change in a moment. Emprove yourself just for yourself. It will be clear to everybody in a party or in common life.


Come on Guy - how self important can you get? No one reads Truemors because it isn't interesting. To suggest
someone should read it because "it will make them a better schmoozer" is just total B.S. You seem to think you are waaaaaaay more important to the world than you really are.


Where should I send the refund for what you pay to read my blog?


At conference parties where people are milling around, I walk up and say, "Hi. My goal is to meet five people I don't know. I'm Sherry, I own a bird and wildlife ringtone and cell phone game company. What do you do?" As I progress through meeting five people, I'm able to hook people up with others who would be a good fit. It works out well. I may start out as the person standing alone, but I sure don't end up that way!

This is so good I came off the email feed to leave you a comment.

Just excellent advice; I'm going to approach the loner at the next party I attend.

Really, really good.

Okay, I'm headed over to Truemors now...


5 minutes - if you have not figured out why you need to be talking to this person, or why they need to talk to you, say "Excuse me" and move on. You are either wasting their time or yours. In either case you are being impolite.
I'm not sure I believe that there is such a thing as "Small Talk" isn't that like small pictures?
Good stuff - networking can be fun if you treat people like you want to be treated and don't take it personally if everyone does not want to talk to you. It happens.

I'll bet there are even people who would not talk to Guy. Like Microsofties for example....

Holy mother #5 (Truemors) takes schmoozing to the whole new brown-nosing level.

Very good tips. I think the bonus tip covers it all: treat people like people. If you do that, even if you don't get it "right" you will make the good impression and people will know they are more than just $$$ to you.

I wanted to make sure that you know about Bob Burg's ENDLESS REFERRALS. To me that's the Bible on networking. High introverts and people who hate networking have come to enjoy it after Bob's book.

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