10 Tips for Walking into a Party where You Don’t Know Anyone
You just got invited to a party, but you don’t know anyone! It happens to the best of us, whether it’s at work or school or even just hanging out with friends—but it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right tactics, you can walk into any party and instantly feel more comfortable and ready to mingle. Here are 10 easy tips that will help you walk into any party feeling like you belong there.
1) Turn off your phone
Unless you want your GPS and social media apps to broadcast your location, turn off your phone’s data connectivity before heading out. If you do want to use location services (such as FourSquare or Yelp), make sure they’re set to offline mode so that others can’t track you. Then, double-check yourself: put your phone in your bag or pocket and check that it is, in fact, off by pressing and holding its power button for about 5 seconds.
2) Don’t stick to one drink
While getting completely smashed at an event will make it easier for you at the time of the party…It will definitely not be easier later when you have to explain your embarrassing behavior to everyone. Don’t avoid the bar altogether as this brief event stop is a great place to strike up a casual conversation with others. Try a sparkling water with a splash of juice, or alternate between a mocktail and a cocktail so you don’t get too Friendly with the other guests!
3) Start with a Compliment
Ask someone what they do, then ask if you can give them a compliment. It’s weird, but it works: people love compliments. Chances are you’ll get to know them better by asking about their business or job. For example, What do you do? I work in real estate. Oh that’s interesting! Can I tell you how great your office is?
If you’re at an event with people you don’t know, introduce yourself and put on your best smile. It can be intimidating to walk up to someone who looks busy and engaged, but taking that first step is key in starting conversations. If your social skills are rusty, think of it as exercising those muscles again after a long time. It can feel awkward at first but will get easier as you go along.
5) Find Yourself a Wing Man
The key to going to a party or networking event and not standing in a corner is to bring someone with you. Having another person there will help initiate conversation, provide social backup if you get tongue-tied, or give you someone to talk with who isn’t directly related to your reason for being there. This can be as simple as asking an acquaintance or new friend along, but it’s more likely that you’ll end up making connections with other people at the event.
6) Give people an out (e.g. I have to go grab a drink, but I want to introduce myself first)
If you’re lucky, you won’t end up standing alone in a corner like an awkward statue. One of two things will happen: Someone will come to talk to you or someone will come and go before they even realize that you exist. At both events, give them an out by mentioning that you want to introduce yourself but need to get something first (or already got it). This way, if they decide not to stay, they won’t feel bad.
7) Ask questions and listen to others
When entering a social situation where you don’t know anyone, it’s important to let others do most of the talking. It can be tempting to dive right in and start telling everyone about yourself and what you do—but you’ll have much more success by first getting to know other people by asking questions and listening intently. This allows them to feel like they have something in common with you, rather than just another person trying to sell them something.
8) Keep it casual (e.g. talk about sports and weather rather than politics or religion)
Casual conversation is ideal when you’re at a party and don’t know anyone. Opting to talk about sports, weather or other things that are unimportant and easily relatable is an easy way to open up discussions with new people. For example, if there’s a baseball game on TV in progress, you can go up to someone who seems interesting in asking what they think of it.
9) Make eye contact with the host and other attendees when entering/leaving the party
Eye contact is one of our strongest modes of nonverbal communication. Making eye contact with those already in attendance lets them know you’re there and makes them more likely to start up a conversation with you. The same goes for making eye contact with the host—he or she may have been assigned as your buddy for getting to know others at the party. Once in a while, look around at different groups and then make eye contact again.
10) Count Down from 5 (Mel Robbins!)
One of my favorite tips is to count down from five. When you walk into a party, start counting from five to one on your fingers. It may seem strange, but it actually convinces your brain that you have already started the process of meeting someone. The small amount of momentum makes it even easier to speak with someone you don’t know. Start with something that is authentically you…i.e. “Ok…So I know absolutely no one here…Can you help me meet my first person?! What is your name?”
Photo Credit: @opkirilka via Twenty20