The Art of Being Un-Awkward
Yesterday the lovely Tiffany Buckmiller posted on my Facebook page and asked the following: For those of us who are deathly afraid of “mixers” can you do a blog post on not embarrassing ourselves and etiquette for making business contacts and friends?! Thanks! Oh, Tiffany, I’m still trying to find the right way mixing.
I definitely don’t have the answers, but here are two personal stories that happened less than a week ago at a conference to help illustrate my point…
Real Life Story Number One: It was called The White Party and the invitation encouraged everyone to wear white, which might not had been a problem if I actually owned more than two items of white clothing. I paired a dress shirt and white pants, but decided I looked like Ellen Degeneres and left everything at home. Instead I wore a champagne-colored shirt and skirt. That should have been a sign of things to come. Really. I walked into the all-white party with my roommates, but somehow got separated and I was left standing by the buffet station. Alone. From afar I saw a speaker who presented on a panel I attended earlier that day, so I approached her circle of friends and waited patiently to introduce myself and let her know how fabulously she presented. And then the worst thing happened: they Mean Girls-ed me. Uh, yeah. CLOSED THEIR CIRCLE and pretended I wasn’t there.
I was mortified, but pretended I didn’t see what they did and tapped the panelist on the shoulder. Hi, I just wanted to say you did a great job today and I loved your presentation…thanks. We shook hands and then I walked away. The end.
Real Life Story Number Two: I walked into the mixer alone and set down my coat on a nearby table. There were roughly 15 tiny circles of people chatting and I didn’t have the nerve to approach them mid-conversation, but I also didn’t have the nerve to stand alone by the buffet station (what’s up with my gravitation to food?!) so I marched up to the one person who was standing alone. Caroline, she introduced herself and said she was holding up the wall. And then I offered to help. She was a single mom, had never been to Utah before, liked her drink straight up on the rocks, and was a reupholstery blogger. Yes, she made a living blogging DIY reupholstering. We simply talked about life while we held up the wall…and enjoyed ourselves.
Because we didn’t approach the conversation with expectation, we simply conversed. That’s it. There wasn’t a need to swap business cards, immediately guess what the other could do for their social standing on the invisible social totem pole, or ask the same questions repetitively (although we did end up swapping contact info because she’s the bomb). Caroline and I did what we were supposed to do: mix. After 10 minutes, we exchanged pleasantries and went our ways. The end.
I don’t know what those two stories are suppose to convey, besides showcasing how presently mixers look for me. They’re difficult, but I always try to keep a few things in mind:
1. I’ll get more from a mixer being genuinely interested in two other people than trying to get 200 people interested in me.
2. Find people who are standing by themselves…they’re probably just as desperate to talk to someone as you are.
3. Don’t ask predictable questions…strike up the type of conversation you’d like to have as a way to avoid seeming insincere (instead of asking about the weather, maybe ask if they saw the Lakers game last night or if they’re watching good reality television shows or compliment a great pair of shoes).
4. Stay away from the Mean Girls…the minute you give them attention, they have the power to make you feel like you’re less than you are.
5. When all else fails, hang out by the buffet station…it easy to bond over mutual love of mashed potatoes.
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