This is a guest post by David Lazar of Comet Docs.
Like it or not, schmoozing is something that helps us get ahead in the world. It is a good way to meet new people and get yourself better familiarized within your community. Whether you are looking to get ahead professionally or move on up socially, schmoozing is something that you need to get good at.
Even though it’s not usually seen in a positive light, there are ways to schmooze without stepping on any toes, and if you are doing it right, schmoozing is not the same thing as brown-nosing.
There are ways to schmooze without coming off as an annoying try-hard to the people around you. It’s a great way to establish new contacts and get your foot in the door, and believe it or not, there are ways to go about being a schmoozer that are both unnoticeable and proper, that is, if you take the time to work on your craft.
Here are five things that you need to know if you want to become a master schmoozer.
Making Initial Contact
Schmoozing is a lot like meeting singles in a bar, in the sense that you need a good introduction. Of course, it should not be at the level of a half-clever pick-up line, but you will need to figure out a way to introduce yourself into a conversation without looking desperate or prying. Of course, it is a lot easier if you are familiar with the person that you intend on schmoozing with, and it is even easier if you are at some type of professional convention where the potential topics of discussion present themselves to you fairly obviously.
If you are approaching someone who you are not familiar with, then you should really do some type of research beforehand. Walking into such a situation blindly can often backfire, so it is good to have a plan of attack when you are approaching someone you do not have something blatantly in common with. Finding out about hobbies or favorite sporting teams is usually a good place to start.
Getting the dialogue started in a courteous and meaningful manner is what’s most important.
Honing Your Presentation
Obviously, presentation is key when trying to initiate a schmoozing session. Would you want to talk to someone in ill-fitting, dirty jeans, with scraggly hair and bad breath? And more importantly, would you be able to take them seriously? In the business world, usually not. Sure, we have heard of stories in which such disheveled geeks have turned into moguls, but you better believe that they tidied themselves up at some point along the way.
No one is telling you that you need to buy a $10,000 dollar suit to impress, but if you want to be taken seriously by someone who is above you professionally, you need to adhere to the most basic rules of grooming – wrinkle-free shirts and pants, proper shoes, tidy hair, and pleasant breath. Of course, you need to be wearing something that you feel comfortable in, otherwise there is no way that you will be able to exude the confidence needed to schmooze properly.
If you are not used to dressing properly, then get used to it. Wear suits regularly and find what you look and feel best in, so that you will be able to present yourself confidently. You need to remember that the goal of schmoozing is to leave a positive impression and to have these people who you admire respond positively to your presence.
Minding Your Manners
Now that you are dressed appropriately, you need to act that way. All the good grooming in the world will not help you if you have no manners. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you need to read up on manners. If you are familiar with these rules and regulations that the cultured abide by, then you know what to do.
- Be polite
- Look people in the eyes when you are talking to them
- Do not interrupt people when they are speaking
- Give firm handshakes
- Hold the door open (not only for women, but anyone who may be behind you)
- Eat with your mouth closed
The basics. If these concepts are foreign to you, then you are not ready to schmooze yet.
Mastering the Art of Conversation
The hardest part about schmoozing is not engaging in conversation, but making good of it. More times than not, it is better to keep the conversation light. In most cases, you are meeting this person for the first time – engaging in serious business-related conversation with a minimal introduction of who you are, is usually very off-putting.
Keep the conversation light and cordial, if your schmoozing accomplishes its goal, then you will have plenty of other opportunities to discuss more serious topics.
In order to make chitchat that is not banal and useless, you will need to be a well-informed individual. Knowing a lot about one particular thing might be considered strength professionally, but knowing a little bit about a lot of things is very helpful in making good conversation. Keep a close tab on current events and keep yourself informed and interested in a variety of topics in order to expand your conversational palette.
Knowing How to Listen
Since conversation is such an important part of schmoozing, people focus on what they are going to say so much that they often forget to listen to what the other person is saying. The habit of thinking about what you are going to say next instead of listening to what someone is telling you is a difficult one to break, and the only way to break the habit is with a lot of practice.
Also, listening and then reacting to what has been said by asking questions is one of the best ways to keep a conversation going and interesting.
Listening usually turns out to be more important than talking. Saying something impressive on a first meeting can certainly grab a person’s attention and get them to notice you, but meeting them down the road and remembering details of what they said to you on your first meeting is even more impressive.
By showing that you cared enough to listen astutely and that you remember what they told you, you are making yourself look not only respectable, but also likeable – and that is the main goal of schmoozing.
What are your favorite schmoozing tips?
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