The Art of Mingling
With the opening of the academic year there have been many campus events that present opportunities to mingle with peers, faculty, and campus leadership. Unfortunately, I have witnessed a lot of missed opportunities for people to connect, conversations to flow, and ideas to be shared. For most, the idea of circulating through a room full of people is incredibly daunting.
It does not have to be this way!
During our lifetime we are given many opportunities to master this skill, but often we approach the situation the same way each time, and the result is that it never feels any easier or less awkward. In preparation for the next time you have the opportunity to mingle, please consider a few tips that are designed to improve your experience.
Move – Begin by moving around the space to engage with various people. A chat with someone who is also getting food from an appetizer table, a “hello” to the person hosting the event, a conversation with someone who you recognize, but don’t know well, an awareness that someone is standing all alone and could use a conversation buddy, will quickly launch you toward mastering the art of mingling. The idea is to see and seize opportunities to connect with others.
Interact – Talk with others about the event, the event topic, ask people about what drew them to attend, and all of a sudden you are deepening those conversations. You might also extend conversations to share what interested you about attending, add a bit about your field of study, ask others about their field of study and now you are truly mingling.
Navigate – Recognize that you may want to adjust your conversation to the individuals with whom you are speaking. How and what you say to the President of the University is different from a conversation with two colleagues from your department.
Gain – Gain confidence by accepting opportunities to events and receptions where there are opportunities to mingle. You will meet some interesting people along the way, some of whom will also have connections of interest to you.
Listen – People have stories to tell and information to share. When you ask open-ended questions you are likely to learn about who they are and what’s important to them. Asking, “Did you like the event?” requires only a “yes” or “no” response. Asking, “What did you think about the event?” will make for a richer conversation.
Engage – Consider engaging with people beyond the event. Maybe you met someone and would like to have coffee together. Maybe you would like to volunteer to help the coordinators organize similar events. Perhaps you will cultivate a new connection on LinkedIn with someone you met. Think about any connections you would like to further cultivate.
Set your intention before you enter the room and remember why you are there. You won’t smooth out all the kinks the first time you try new approaches to mingling, but with each opportunity you will likely gain confidence and a greater sense of ease.