Love them or hate them, parties are an integral part of our lives. They are where people meet prospective business partners, future romantic partners, and friends; it is a place where small talk becomes the stuff of life.
Who among us; save the most charismatic and self-sufficient partygoer; wouldn’t like to be better at parties?
If this is you, then today is your lucky day because we are going to teach you the 21 crucial steps to being better at parties. This includes making seamless, beautiful small talks that lead to important conversations and connections. We will teach and help ease you into mingling effortlessly and also demonstrate the right way to leave; while saving your reputation.
So let’s go forth and get partying!
First impressions are crucial; here are the steps you should take to make arriving at a party more fulfilling and less stressful.
Step 1: Have a Purpose
Unless you’re the most gregarious of extroverts, one of the issues with parties is the feeling of walking into a room full of strangers. Or perhaps, you’re only vaguely connected to the host; who will most definitely be busy hosting and entertaining other guests.
The question now is; how are you going to start a conversation at a party with a complete stranger or someone you barely know?
But, there is a reason why you’re attending this party. If there isn’t, then you should start rethinking your decisions for going to this party; better to say no and save yourself from the agony of canceling.
However, let’s assume you do want to go; you need to take a moment to identify realistically, what your purpose for attending is. Is it; to make a business connection, to meet a new friend, to have intellectual conversations, to taste some new food or wine, or to relax?
After defining your purpose, setting a goal for attending the party becomes easier. You would then know what to accomplish before you leave.
Step 2: Find Your Ensemble
Party prepping should involve what you are going to wear.
Pick a tried-and-true outfit, something that taps into the best version of yourself; as opposed to something that makes you feel self-conscious, or that you will be constantly adjusting.
Step 3: What to Bring
The classic rule is to show up with something in hand; however, nowadays you don’t need to show up with something for your friends.
If you feel more comfortable arriving with a bottle of wine or a token of your appreciation, then, by all means, go for it. If they say “just bring yourself”, then you can take them for their word.
Bear in mind that conversation is part of what you bring to any social event. Always be prepared with 3 topics to talk about; they can be about anything that intrigues you at the moment. You need not even talk about them; they’re just there as a backup if you need them.
Step 4: Arrive on Time and Go Alone
Forget what everyone has been saying about “arriving fashionably late” and with a posse of friends.
The very best time to arrive at a party is right when it starts; before everyone is ensconced in conversations and you find yourself in the position of having to work your way into established groups.
If you can bear it, go alone; and watch as the other guests make a beeline toward you. The person who walks alone is usually the most approachable person.
If you do arrive in a couple or group, you might go so far as to separate from them in order to truly maximize your mingling.
Step 5: Greetings
Getting past the initial hellos can be a judgment itself; do you hug, shake hands, or kiss on one cheek in the European style? What if you are them hate being touched?
Pay attention to other people’s cues instead of adhering to some global rule of what one should do in any particular moment. This is because you should respect the boundaries the other person sets up. When it comes to manners, you’ve got to be a chameleon and adapt.
However, if something makes you uncomfortable, you should also let the other person know politely.
Time to Mingle
Now that you have arrived at the party, it is time to start meeting your fellow partygoers and impressing them with your witty, warm repartee.
But how do you do that?
Step 6: Look Around and Smile
You’ve arrived on time; whether by yourself or not, with a gift in hand, or simply your presence as your present. You know what you want to accomplish and you have conversational topics in the back pocket of your carefully selected outfit; it’s time to shine!
The first couple of minutes are the most crucial. If you can win them over with your smile and make eye contact, you would instantly be put in the right place.
You’ll know when someone is looking to chat if they are scanning the room. If you see someone like that, then that is the perfect person to approach.
Step 7: Give Yourself a Job
If you feel vehemently awkward about standing in the middle of the room and smiling, or approaching someone else; then you should make yourself occupied by having a job at the party.
For example, if you know the host, you can offer to help serve drinks, take coats, clear used glasses, or open the door as people knock.
Step 8: Make the Small Talk
Some might neglect small talk as if it’s superficial and think that it’s just mundane chitter-chatter about the weather or sports. But in actual fact, it is actually of paramount importance.
Small talks are about negotiating relationships; sometimes it might even lead to ongoing relationships. To put it simply, small talks are like the appetizer for any relationship. You won’t know where or when your next opportunity will be in life, friendship, romance, and meeting people.
In most cases, relationships start with small talk; somebody had to break the ice and say hello first, no matter how afraid they might be.
You could always start with a question or give a compliment; but whatever you do, say hello and be genuine.
At the end of it all, it’s about figuring out what kind of person you want to spend the next 30 minutes of your evening with. The aim is to find one or two people with whom you have commonalities, then you can go deeper with more personal questions.
Step 9: Introversion VS Social Anxiety
There is a fine line between being an introvert and having social anxiety. Introverts are slightly quieter than the general population and feel that lots of energy is required to keep a conversation going at a party. In contrary, social anxiety is a learned behavior often stemming from a traumatic incident.
Before partying, ask yourself if you might have those feelings in this situation; and also think about how you can prepare for that,
Just because you tend toward introversion, doesn’t mean you can’t be good at parties; it’s all about managing your energy. You can go and rock a party, but having strategies to recharge is vital.
A simple solution could be hiding in the bathroom when necessary or finding an extroverted friend to help you out.
Step 10: Put Down Your Mobile Phone
Mobile phones complicate everything; on one hand, it is great that you do not have to stand in one place and look lost. However, the downside is that it can give off the impression that you are very unapproachable.
Your mobile phone isn’t just distracting, but also limiting your capacity to empathize.
Think about it; you’re not making eye contact or noticing how people in the room are feeling. In addition, you’re probably missing out on some really good conversations by staring at your screen; which you can do anytime you want when you get home.
Step 11: Use the Information At Hand
Your best bet when conversing with someone new at a party, is to base what you say on the “free information” you have at hand about the occasion or location.
You can ask questions like “how do you know the host or hostess?”
Don’t Be That Person
Being a party guest is easy, but being a great party guest takes a lot of effort and work.
Step 12: Make Good Conversation
3 Tiers of Good Conversation Topics:
Tier 1: Safe Territory – think sports, the weather, pop culture, local celebrities, and any immediate shared experience; this is the “free information” that we have mentioned in the previous step.
Tier 2: Potentially Controversial - these include religion, politics, dating and love lives. Test the waters, and back away if they’re not interested or you sense that the other person is feeling uncomfortable.
Tier 3: Intimate Topics – these consist of family and finance, buckets into which health and work-life are included. Some people love to talk about what they do and their kids, but do not ask a probing question until the door has been opened. Those sorts of questions can also become exclusionary, so think about everyone involved in the conversation before you start.
Knowing the 3 tiers can save you from making the most embarrassing faux pas. In any situation, do not ask a question that could put somebody in a bad position; such as “Is your boyfriend here?” Instead, try “catch me up on your life!”
Step 13: Be More Interested To Be More Interesting
Unless you’re a professional comedian, don’t head to a party with the intent of leaving everyone in stitches.
If you talk a lot, you might tire yourself. However, if you ask questions, listen, and draw people out, they’ll think you’re a great conversationalist.
In a recent study where two researchers from the psychology department at Harvard University found that talking about yourself triggers the same pleasure sensation in the brain as food. People would literally forgo money, just to talk about themselves; use this to your advantage simply by listening.
Step 14: Do Not Be A Conversation Hog
We’ve all been involved in those irritating conversations where we never seem to be able to get a word in edgewise. Unfortunately, we may have been on the other side too.
No matter the situation, it is imperative to share the conversation pie. Share half if there are two of you, a quarter if there are four. The share of the pie is never as large as what involves you listening.
Working the Room
Mingling is an art itself, but remember what you’re here for; to have fun and meet new people.
Step 15: Entering and Exiting Conversations
Picture yourself being trapped in a conversation with a monologuer, and you’re racking your brain trying to escape.
What you can do is to excuse yourself, such as pretending that you just spotted your friend. Another way is to acknowledge what you’ve heard, then give them a warning that the conversation is almost over. For example, “That sounds like you really have a passion for skating! I’m sorry, but I’ve only got a couple more minutes until I need to leave.”
If the speaker continues to dominate, deliver on what you said; such people are only interested in talking but not building relationships. Appreciate their time, thank them, then excuse yourself to leave.
When seeking new conversational partners, it’s more difficult to go into a closed group than it is to address a solo person; take note of their body language.
If they’re standing in a circle with their feet pointed to each other, they’ve blocked off interaction with anyone else. But if you see there’s a bit of space for others to come in, where you can physically fit yourself in, that means the group is interested in having others come up. Listen in, find an open spot, and make your move. If you meet two or three people hanging out, ask how they met; ask questions that encourage storytelling
Step 16: Don't Double Down if You are Not Getting What You Want
One huge conversational mistake is not picking up clues about how other people are reacting to you. However, do keep in mind that everyone has different conversational styles.
You should always be attuned to the signals others are sending. According to research, some cultures have a high-involvement style, which means standing closer, offering more gestures and broad facial expressions; whilst others have a high-considerate style, which means fewer broad gestures and facial expressions. If you’re experiencing a disconnect, it may simply be that you have different styles.
If you find yourself doing all the talking, try stopping and asking a question. If you find yourself not having a chance to talk, try talking over the other person or find a spot and chime in.
Be aware, for most people, if something is not going well, our instinctive response is to do more of it. Don’t.
Step 17: When Awkward Silences Happen
One way to avoid awkward silences is to assume the burden of the conversation. You can try coming up with new things to talk about and taking the conversation in another direction.
It’s not only about questions; if the other party isn't interested in the topic, then the conversation will go nowhere.
Do bear in mind that pauses are natural; if you wait it out, the other person might revive the conversation. You can also circle back to an earlier topic, on your part.
But if you’ve reached the end, then exit the conversation in a polite way.
Step 18: What To Do With Your Body
1. Make eye contact - Hold your eye contact for a split second longer than you want; try practicing it with everyone you meet. It may feel extremely uncomfortable, but it will deepen the relationship you already have.
2. Keep up your posture - Practice good posture; stand with your shoulders up and back to project confidence and self-assurance. These qualities make you appear magnetic to others and can boost your self-confidence.
3. Open your body – Avoid crossing your arms, because this makes you look closed-off and unapproachable. Remind yourself to try keeping your arms to your sides. Additionally, you can try keeping a glass in your hand, with or without alcohol in it; this helps to prevent you from crossing your arms.
4. Keep A Smile - Not only does it make you look more approachable, but smiling also makes you feel less stressed and tensed up. The biggest challenge is to walk into a room, get a drink, stand there and smile. However, looking cool and bored only makes you feel more alienated; no one would want to approach you. There is no person in the world that wouldn’t respond to a smile.
Now that you are the hit of the party and you’ve charmed your way into the hearts of all, it’s time to stick the landing.
Step 19: Read The Room
Is vanishing without a word ever acceptable? The answer is no.
While you don’t want to make a big interruption, you should acknowledge the departure and thank your host. There are, of course, always exceptions and you could follow up after the party to thank the host if the “in-person” goodbye simply can’t happen.
Don’t just thank your host before leaving, go up to the other people that you have spoken to throughout the evening, and tell them that it was great to meet them. Exchange business cards and go back around; it’ll make them feel special.
If there are people you weren’t able to talk to, you can leave a good impression by telling them something like, “I have to run, I hope to see you soon.”
That way, they won’t think that you are avoiding them.
Step 20: What if You Mess Up Terribly?
Say you forget a name, or introduce yourself anew to someone you’ve already met, or spill your drink all over your host’s white carpeting; admit the predicament, apologize with sincerity and move on.
It doesn’t have to be very intimidating; there’s the fear of the small mistake ruining everything, but it’s unlikely.
Anyway, isn’t life hard enough already? There are opportunities for kindness and engagement, and you should take advantage of those. If you’re rejected under those terms, keep in mind that it’s through no fault of your own.
Step 21: Know That There Will Be Others
Last but not least; when you leave, leave the party behind for good. Don’t sweat the inevitable after-party F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out).
Even if you get the call saying something along the lines of , “I can’t believe you left because, after that, someone important showed up.”
Do not be tempted to go back.
Look, it’s just one party. There’s always going to be another one around the corner. For now, reward yourself with a bath and the simple satisfaction that you survived the party; and maybe you even had fun too?