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How to Enter a Room of Strangers with Confidence

Category: Personal Development

Leanna Cruz
Editorial Director
You are about to enter a room filled with people you do not know. If you walk in expecting to be ignored, you will be ignored. But if you walk in confidently, you can make a positive and lasting impression.

There are many ways to convey confidence. Start by entering the room with a sense of purpose. Head straight for a table with something to pick up, such as a glass of water or wine, a program or a nametag. Not only will you appear to be in the know, you will have an opportunity to survey the room. As you look around, attempt to make eye contact with another guest. Once you catch someone’s eye, throw her a smile as you approach for conversation. Make sure you have placed your nametag on your right side, so that when you extend your hand to introduce yourself, it will be in her direct line of sight.

If you cannot make eye contact with anyone, try to spot someone who looks as uncomfortable as you feel- for example, the person standing by the wall, clutching a glass so tightly, it’s about to shatter. This individual will likely welcome your conversation. As you walk over to her, nod a “hello” to everyone with whom you make eye contact. In so doing, you will radiate confidence. Once you are face to face with her, introduce yourself and share your connection to the event. Then make a positive comment about the event, host, location or food. Take a look around the room, and make an upbeat observation about what is going on, the mood of the guests, or even the atmosphere. If you get the sense that the conversation is about to stall, ask questions, which will encourage her to participate and allow you to learn more. You may ask good general questions such as “How do you recommend I get involved with this project/organization?” or “What do you recommend from the buffet?” More specific questions will depend upon the nature of the event, as demonstrated by the following examples:

  • Office Party:
    What are some of your departments’ current projects?
    How are these projects progressing?
    What challenges have you encountered?
    Which other departments are involved?
  • Political Event:
    What inspired you to support this candidate?
    Sounds like that is very important to you, is there a specific reason why you feel so strongly?
    Everyone is talking about the book he just released. What are your thoughts about it?
  • Fundraiser:
    What is the nature of your involvement in this organization?
    I have thought about getting more involved, can you suggest a committee I can join to learn more about the organization?
    On the way here I was listening to a talk program and it sounds like the economy is on an upswing. How do you think that will affect charitable donations?
  • Wedding:
    How do you know the bride/groom?
    Do you know where they are going on their honeymoon?
    What can you recommend from the buffet?
  • School Function:
    What was the highlight of your child’s school year?
    Which extra curricular activities is he involved in?
    What are her plans for the summer?

Approaching conversation in this manner gives the other person an opportunity to talk about her interests, comfortable territory for almost everyone. Listen with your undivided attention. If you make the person you are speaking with feel important, she will likely develop a positive impression of you, and when you successfully initiate conversation and put another person at ease, you boost your own confidence. Of course, you should always make sure to leave an opening so that others feel welcome to join your conversation.

If there is someone at the event you specifically want to meet, you should prepare before you go. Learn as much as you can about the individual’s personal interests, and read up on these topics in newspapers, magazines, industry journals or organizational newsletters. The information you learn will help you establish a connection with the specific individual you are hoping to meet. Furthermore, this type of research is generally beneficial as it builds your bank of knowledge from which you can draw conversation in a variety of social situations. Increased knowledge allows you to contribute to conversations with confidence and to ask intelligent questions of others, which will in turn, help you learn even more. If you lack time to read extensively, simply review your favorite section of the newspaper, the headlines, the lifestyle and business sections, and at least scan the sports section.

If you are the nervous guest who stands by the wall, tightly clutching your glass, try adopting a new attitude before attending your next event. Shed your uncomfortable demeanor, and try “tricking” yourself into thinking that you are responsible for making others feel comfortable. You can pretend you are a host and greeter. If you are feeling especially adventurous, you could even volunteer to be an official greeter. Should you take on such a role, try making a special effort to introduce guests with similar interests. Your effort will leave other guests with the favorable impression that you thought they were important enough to reach out to and interesting enough to introduce to others.

You can also apply these principles of interaction to enhance your everyday contact with others. Each day, we have brief encounters with any number of people — bank tellers, store clerks, cashiers, cab drivers, and doormen, to name a few. Often, in our hurry, we ignore these individuals or treat them as mere service people. Going forward, try to remember that it takes only a few seconds of your time to brighten someone’s day. Make eye contact, give them a smile, pause your conversation on the cell phone, say hello and exchange a compliment. The young lady who has gone through an obvious effort to manicure her nails, a gentleman wearing a shirt of the team that just won the Super Bowl, a cashier who made an extra effort to clear a long line quickly – these individuals all present clues that allow you to personalize your interaction with them by saying a little something special. Your positive behavior is certain to make someone feel happier or more at ease, which will set you apart, and cause your self-confidence to soar.

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