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7 Suggestions on How to Thrive at Social Events

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

If you find it difficult to walk up to strangers at social events, you are not alone. Most people at most social events feel the same; this is why they tend to cluster in circles of friends rather than venture out and accost strangers.  However, with a little preparation, you can thrive at social events, meet new people and impress them.

Here is all you need to know.

1. Your Socialising Should Be About Others

Shyness, fear of embarrassment and not knowing what to say are all very selfish actions and by concentrating on them you are concentrating too much on yourself and that will only make things more difficult for you. Instead, make the event be about other people. Focus on them. Get them to talk about themselves and their interests. The best way to do this is by asking questions, which brings us to the next point.

2. Prepare Questions in Advance

Prepare a few general questions in advance and write them in your notebook, type them into your telephone or tattoo them into your arm (but do not go sleeveless if you do this!). Your questions should be open and at least some of them should be relevant to the event. If you are attending a friend's party, an obvious question is to ask people how they met the host. If you are likely to meet people who have knowledge you do not, make questions to get that knowledge. For instance, if you have just moved to a city, you can ask people for suggestions about places to go and things to do and make notes of their answers.

In addition to the usual, social questions, include a fun philosophical question or two in your list. Such questions are especially useful if you meet someone interesting and want to take the conversation to the next level. Philosophical questions are those that make people think more deeply about their values, goals and selves; questions like...

  1. What makes you feel alive?
  2. If you knew the world was going to end at sunrise tomorrow, what would you do today?
  3. What is your philosophy in life?
  4. What is your relationship with money?
  5. If you could know any one thing with certainty, what would you want to know?

3. Walk Up to Someone and Introduce Yourself

Walking up to someone and introducing yourself is the only way you are going to get a conversation started. It is an easy move to make physically, but can be a big step if you are not a natural socialiser. Do not worry. You've got some questions prepared and, once you have finished reading this, you will know all you need to know to be a great socialiser. So, just find your victim, approach her or him and introduce yourself.

4. Ask Your Questions

The next step is to ask one of your questions and then listen to the answer. Really listen. In conversations, people have a tendency to think about their next question rather than to listen. That's a mistake. If you listen, you will doubtless be curious to know more, which will lead naturally to further and more interesting questions. When this happens, do not worry about your list of questions; just let the conversation flow naturally. There is no need to ask every question of each person you meet. The questions are merely to get conversations started.

5. Ask for Advice

People love to be asked for advice. If the person you are talking to may have useful advice for you, do not be afraid to ask for it. Indeed, feel encouraged to ask for it. Not only will your conversation partner love you for stroking her ego (we all love to be recognised for our expertise), but research shows that she will think you are a brighter person for asking for the advice.

6. Compliment

Everyone loves a compliment, so do not be afraid to compliment your conversation partner. Indeed, make it a habit to do so. However, avoid flirty compliments such as: "you are the most beautiful woman in the room" or "Your eyes are gorgeous". Instead, compliment your conversation partner on choices ("that's a great outfit you are wearing; where did you get it?") or actions. For instance if your conversation partner tells you how she handled a difficult situation, compliment her on it.

7. Move on When the Time Is Right

Do not be a clinger, especially at a big event. Once the conversation starts to lull, excuse yourself and find someone else to talk to. Likewise, if your conversation partner is starting to look restless, excuse yourself. Even if you are having a great chat and find yourself attracted to your conversation partner, make an excuse and push on. Leaving while a conversation is great can only leave a positive impression on your conversation partner.

Needless-to-say, if you want to stay in touch with your conversation partner, be sure to get her contact details before you move on. You might even suggest an innocuous follow up meeting, such as "I've really enjoyed talking with you and I would love to hear more about [topic of conversation]. Let's meet up for a coffee and follow up."

Then move on to another potential conversation partner and start again.

A Note on Business Networking Events

A lot of advice on business networking events is rather different to this and focuses on being more businesslike, promoting yourself and getting follow up meetings. That's all fine and good if you want to be a bore or if you live only to do business. However, if you want to build relationships with human being; relationships that lead to trust, respect and long term connections, follow my advice in this article. After all, even business people are keener to help a friend than someone whose card they got at a networking event.


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