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Effortless Networking How to Work the Room

By: Sri Dasgupta

I've been resisting writing about how to "work the room" because I personally don't like to do it (interesting how that happens). Fortunately, I came to my senses and realized that I can answer the question easily, without having to actually do it myself!

So here's the bottom line.

You need two things to successfully and efficiently "work the room":

  1. You must be clear about why you want to work the room.
  2. You must be able to engage people in conversation.

Why is this important?

Well, your objective for wanting to work the room directly affects *what* you talk about with people as you go through the room.

Let's think about this for a bit.

After you're done working the room, what end result do you want to have?

  • Do you want to scan the room for prospective clients/customers and walk away at the end of the event with a list of qualified leads?
  • Do you want to do market research and leave the event with very specific information about how to proceed with your new project or venture?
  • Are you looking for new business opportunities, such as strategic partnerships or speaking engagements, and want at least a couple of contacts to follow up with later?

Do you see how your end goal affects your topics of conversation with people?

This kind of clarity also allows you to have brief and focused conversations with many people -- which is basically what working the room is all about.

Next, notice I said "engage in conversation", not "make conversation".

When I "make conversation", I don't really have any agenda for the conversation. There's no specific outcome I want from the conversation. And the topics of conversation can be inconsequential.

However, when I "engage" someone in conversation, there's real interest on my part, either in the other person or the topic of conversation or both. You probably know from your own experience, that the quality of such conversations is very different from the previous kind.

Of course, when you meet someone for the first time (as is the case when you're working a room), you do start by making conversation and talking about "light" stuff.

However, if you're focused about your purpose for working the room, you can quickly find opportunities or "openings" to transition to a more meaningful conversation. In other words, engage in a topic of conversation that is useful, interesting and relevant to both of you.

Whether or not you find an "opening" for a real conversation, you want to keep the conversation focused and brief, so you can move on to the next person.

End conversations with an agreement about the next step, if there's one. Such as promising to call and schedule a time to talk in more detail later, or agreeing to email some information, or whatever. Or a simple greeting, if you couldn't really engage or if there's no need for a follow up.

When I work with clients privately on this topic, I often spend months with them on how to engage (and re-engage, if necessary!) people in "real" conversations, how to recognize and capitalize on openings and opportunities during conversations, how to skillfully direct the flow of conversations or conclude it with ease, and so on. It takes months because the focus is on applying, practicing and mastering the concepts in *real life*.

Still, I hope this brief article gives you some very specific things you can start doing right away to improve your success rate. Good luck!

Sri Dasgupta - EzineArticles Expert Author

(c) Copyright 2006, Srirupa Dasgupta

Sri Dasgupta helps business professionals get better results from their business networking efforts through focused and relevant conversations. She is the author of the Effortless Networking, and writes regular articles offering business networking tips and related resources.

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