Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Schmoozing for Champions

“Pick a number between 1 and 10,” he shouted over the din.

“Oh no,” my friend groaned, apparently already familiar with this game.

“Seven!” I shouted back predictably.

“Okay,” he said. “We need to meet seven new people before we leave.”

Challenge! We were standing shoulder to shoulder at a CAPE mixer at St. Felix in Hollywood, packed in with hundreds of actors, producers, writers, directors, and other entertainment industry types. The place was swarming with people and one could barely breathe, let alone move around. While I spent most of the time chatting with professional acquaintances and friends, I did meet a handful of new people. I do at every CAPE mixer I attend.

Socializing with strangers used to terrify me. I went to a total of TWO fraternity parties during my college years, which any self-respecting ΑΧΩ will tell you is just pathetic. I was a natural wallflower for most of my life and even now I only consider myself a novice mingler.

But I do it anyway. I go to that networking night or alumni event or barbecue at a friend of a friend’s house because I’m learning to live without fear. And as we all know from Strictly Ballroom, a life lived in fear is a life half-lived.

A few tips I’ve learned over the years that help dampen my fear when I walk into new situations. (These may seem really basic, but try them – they work. You’d be amazed how many people can’t even manage these simple guidelines…)
  • Smile and look people in the eye when you talk to them. Seriously, I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with frowny people who look everywhere but at me, clearly looking for someone better to talk to. So charming. Don’t be one of these people – focus!

  • Ask questions. Don’t know anyone? Ask questions and you’ll get to know them. And if they ask questions back, even better! One or two questions and you can gauge if they’re someone worth talking to. Are you getting one-word answers and blank stares? Move on – some people just aren’t conversationalists and spending too much time trying to talk to them will just bring you down.

  • Talk about something other than what you do. Shop talk can get dry fast. Gather their thoughts about the debt ceiling or the latest superhero blockbuster. Talk about the new restaurant you just tried or the documentary you just saw that made you angry. Talk about anything! You just need an opening. If they let the topic fall like a ton of lead, that’s on them.

  • Don’t get stuck. Whether the conversation is popping or stagnating, know that you’re not married to these people. Move around. Exit by saying, “Excuse me, I’m going to try meeting some more people,” and you can escape. Start over with some new people. It’s called mingling for a reason.
Schmoozing is part of show business and I’m not always great at it, but I keep trying. I keep putting myself out there. That’s life, isn’t it?


  1. I've seen your networking skills first-hand and I can attest that you are a champion networker!

  2. Thanks Jamie! :) So glad you were there that night too!

  3. Well,I've mentioned that you made a good impression and was about to on another entry's comment field. And I've told you an influential person was impressed with you as well.

    SO there!