This week there was a good post about how to “work the room” at networking events, aimed at people who find this kind of thing unpleasant. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a spoiler of the main point:
Then one of my colleagues told me the trick he uses: When he walks into a room alone, he looks for pairs of people who are talking, and introduces himself to each person in the pair.
So if you see a pair of people, the chances are that they arrived together and know they should be mingling. Or else they’ve just met and are, in the back of their minds, worried that they’re going to end up talking to this one person all night.
I appreciated this post because introducing myself at networking events is something that I still don’t like doing, even though I’ve improved substantially over the years. I particularly like two things about the article: firstly, that it acknowledges that networking is a learnable skill that anyone can improve on, and secondly the point that other people hate introducing themselves too and you can use this to your advantage.
The only thing I’d add to this is to make a conscious effort to read body language. Pairs of people who are interested in meeting new people don’t face each other head-on but stand at an angle. This means they form a V shape, typically facing into the room. They’ll be giving each other less eye contact and looking at other people in the room. If you join such a group there’s a natural space for you to do it and you’re likely to be well received. If you see a pair of people squarely facing each other and not looking elsewhere in the room, the chances are greater that they aren’t ready to meet anyone new just yet.