How To Work A Room®: Face To Face in A Digital Age

How work Room Mingling Race to FaceWalking into a room full of people, especially strangers, is daunting for 90% of adults according to research on shyness. Whether it’s a professional association event, a convention, a trade show, a fundraiser or a Chamber of Commerce networking event, most people are not mingling mavens® whether or not they self-identify as shy or as introverts. Yet, our careers, businesses, professional and social lives are enhanced by knowing how to work a room, meet, mingle, schmooze, interact and make social and business connections in this digital age.

Developing a solid, support network of colleagues is essential to success. Attend events with the intention of meeting people, making connections and building relationships.

In the last few years, blog posts and articles entitled “how to work a room®” have appeared which contain advice that ranges from useful to useless and counter-productive. As the author of the classic, How To Work a Room®, now in its well-over 50th printing and in its Silver Anniversary edition, I’m appalled by some of the advice that I’ve read. One prominent magazine quoted a source who suggested “talk to the furniture for practice.” Really! How silly! How useless!

To make yourself feel confident and comfortable at any business networking event or social gathering, all you need to do is spend a few minutes to prepare before you enter any room, event or meeting.

   Be Sure To Prepare

  1. A self-introduction. It’s NOT an elevator pitch. It’s 7-9 seconds and is a pleasantry.
  2. Our attitudes. Shift from wondering who you will meet to thinking about who you will be fortunate to “get to” meet.
  3. Conversation. Read a newspaper or content curator on or off-line and have 3-5 items of potential conversation to fall back on. (Latest movie blockbuster, sports championship, community project or restaurant opening, etc). Even the weather….and especially those “memorable” weather situations…are good conversation starters. As a CNN meteorologist said, “Weather is something we have in common.”
  4. Carry business cards. There are people I’ve met who’ve told me they haven’t had a card in years. But this is about making connections and building relationships. Although we are in the digital age, if someone asks for a card because that’s their modality, have one to give.  Make sure your cards are standard size and that the font is big enough to read. There are companies selling off-size cards that may stand out and be “all the rage” but if they don’t fit into our card sorting system, their uniqueness is not positive. Snapping a photo of a card and entering it into a database is convenient but only as good for building relationships as you are at remembering who’s in your data base. Most of us don’t remember!

Note: Business cards are a viable way to exchange information that fosters further exchanges.

  1. NOTE: The technology of zapping each other’s phones or some other device dedicated to entering/recording contact information is convenient but its worthless if the exchange of information doesn’t follow an actual real – time conversation.

Before You Enter The Room

Take a deep breath, glance around the room and observe. Where is the food? The bar? the gathering spot? the most trafficked areas? Do you see anyone you know who you should greet? Do you recognize someone you ought to meet?

To make any face-to-face gathering work for you there are things to do that make the socializing easier:

Read Name Tags. Wear yours on the right-hand side. It’s the line of sight with the hand you extend for a handshake. That makes it easy for other people to read your nametag. No one struggles with the embarrassment of forgetting a name. Nametags provide material for conversation about that person. As you extend your hand and introduce yourself, use the person’s name. That will also help you remember names. You can ask a question about the company, location or indicate that you know someone at the company or are familiar with the products.

Reintroduce Yourself to People. If you haven’t seen people for a while, it helps to greet them with your name as you shake hands. They will generally respond in kind. Then no one has to struggle with forgotten names.

Look for the Stand-Alone Person. The person, who is speaking to no one, would welcome your conversation. Just because someone is standing alone doesn’t mean he or she is a snob or “unimportant”. People who are alone may be shyer than you.

Be approachable. A smile and eye contact let people know you’re open to meeting them.

Start with Small Talk. What you have in common makes for ideal icebreakers: The venue, the food, the event, the theme, the sponsor or host. Come prepared with three items that you can use to start or energize a conversation. They are everywhere: in the paper, online on news sites and happen in our daily lives.

Attend Events with a “Buddy.” Choose someone in a non-competitive field and cross-promote and introduce each other.

Warning: Be sure to choose a companion who will introduce you with the same level of enthusiasm that you have given them.

 Lose the Glue. Most people avoid walking over to two people in conversation who appear to be “glued” together. To indicate that you are approachable, face the room, not each other. Move to opposite sides of the room and mingle.

Make it easy for people to talk to you.

Extricate and Circulate. According to manners experts, no matter what country we live in, one must learn to end conversations. Extricating oneself gracefully from a conversation is a must. “Well it was great to talk to you about….” Summarize the main thrust of your chat. Move about one quarter of the room away. No sense in standing in the same area near the person you just left. Circulate around the room. Find another solo or join a group. Stand on the periphery of the group and when acknowledged, step in.

Allow for Serendipity. It is the unexpected bonus that happens to you because of good timing. Because you are in that room, at the event or in that venue, opportunities will appear…which is my theory of marketing, meeting and mingling: “You Never Know!” Attend every event with an open mind.

Make It Your Goal to Have Fun! People are attracted to others who are enjoying themselves. A sense of humor will help you manage and survive myriad situations because laughter is a great medicine and makes for magnificent mingling!

Business Networking Meetings Connections Gadgets

BONUS Tip: In this day and age, we are wise to leave our tools and toys of technology out of sight and/or in the “off” position. Unless we are waiting for a new heart, we can live in the moment and be disconnected for a little while. That includes the BlueTooth, The Smart Phone, The Cell Phone, ipad and the rest of the digi-gadgets. The message you give when you “work” a room with your Bluetooth attached to your ear or checking your Smart Phone is: “No one I’m talking to is as important as whoever may be trying to contact me.” That leaves an impression; but not the one you may want to make.

Be a Savvy Networker.

Networking is a different skill from being able to mingle, socialize and knowing how to work a room. Together they contribute to success. Here are some of the actions to take to ensure that you build the reputation as a savvy, reliable networker.

Acknowledge people who have given you time, leads, advice. Keep them “in the loop.” Be generous with your credit. Do so publicly in front of bosses, family and colleagues.

Match-make (or e-introduce) people you know with job leads, contacts, prospects and generous give referrals. It comes back. Caveat: If you’ve been the recipient of leads and referrals, remember to “pay back” the favor.

Recommend service people (the mechanic, barber, dry cleaners), restaurants and favorite vacation spots.

Stay in touch with your network when you need nothing from it. That makes it easier to get in touch when we need help/advice/leads. Send an email, a linked in message or a handwritten note. If you really want to stand out, pick up the phone and make a call!

Follow Up/Follow Up/Follow UP with the people whose cards you collect whether at the hardware store or at the business event. Without followup, we don’t have a network. Send an email; invite them to be “linked-in”. If you don’t devise a system to organize the follow-up process, all is lost. Use the RoAne “TAP” method. Be Timely, Appropriate, Persistent. If we “work” rooms and don’t follow up, we will not have netted a network to work!

Find more valuable information in the Silver Anniversary edition of How To Work A Room® , by author and keynote speaker, Susan RoAne, available in local and online bookstores and for Kindle or your IPAD. For more information, free articles, and the opportunity to view Susan’s videos and interviews, visit or click here for her youtube channel.


Susan RoAne is an international Keynote speaker and best-selling author who shares the strategies of Connecting and communicating in any room.. She can be found at and followed on twitter

Please note that the phrases How To Work a Room® and The Mingling Maven® are the protectable registered trademarks of Susan RoAne.




About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915