I attended a huge conference recently that features multiple parties and, as always, I had a blast. I have a particular party that’s my favorite, but I like to cruise the other suites and check out the vibe. If I like it, I stay. If it’s as stale and boring as Grandma’s knee socks, I’ll move on.
Yes, I’m a party gal from way back. While other people were voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school, I was voted “Best Partier.” Bam. There it is. No excuses or explanations. Fun is its own reward, as far as I’m concerned.
That said, I realized in chatting with other people who attended the exact same convention that despite a wonderful array of fun parties and suites, many found going into a room full of strangers and interacting with them to be so painful and uncomfortable that they’d either duck in and back out quickly, like when the bathtub water is too hot, or just avoid those situations entirely and stick to familiar people and places. And that’s just sad.
Several said they just feel socially awkward and don’t know what to say. They feel out of place. If you fall into this category, where parties are painful, this is just for you: the Secrets of a Party Goddess.
Don’t run away screaming! They’re much simpler than you think. And, I share them freely because the more people who show up and have fun, the more fun it is for me.
And yes, it’s all about me.
No, seriously. We need to start right there. Before you party, choose your “me.” Do you feel like being sexy and mysterious? Fun and playful? Serious and intriguing? Whoever your “me” is that evening, dress the part. Your clothing is your party uniform. If you’re heading to the pool, your uniform is a swimsuit, not a baseball jersey. Parties are no different. If your wild child wants to come out and play, and you show up in Birkenstocks and dirty cargo pants, it’ll be much harder to communicate your tons-of-fun self. You have to be really skilled to pull that off. A party ninja. You aren’t there yet, Grasshopper. You have to work for that belt.
So. Step one. Select your uniform with careful thought about how you feel and what kind of people you want to interact with.
Continuing in the “it’s all about me” vein, you must feel completely confident — enough to get close, shake hands, maybe even hug, and if the party’s loud, get way inside of people’s personal space just to hear them. So. Bottom line: Don’t be stinky. Shower and brush your teeth even if you already did that day, and wear clean clothes. And remember: Minty freshness matters. The time to scarf down a bunch of garlic fries isn’t an hour before the party. Even your toothpaste can’t combat that.
This segues to another point: Don’t go to a party with a tummy full of food. You need to be able to move around, and if you’re feeling as bloated as a beached whale, you can’t. Conversely, don’t go to a party starving, because hovering over the food buffet and scarfing down spinach dip by the shovelful like you haven’t eaten in weeks is unattractive. It just is. Eat first, but not too much. A handful of nuts before you go out will never steer you wrong.
OK, you’re clean, perfectly dressed, and full to only a Goldilocks level. You’re ready to party!
You’re scared witless. You want to run and hide, and cry a little.
Don’t. I’m gifting you with the next Secret of a Party Goddess so you can “fake it until you make it”: Until you reach the front door, yes, “it’s all about me.” Once you step inside, “it’s all about everybody else.” You enter the party with a journalist’s mindset. Every single person you see has an amazing story to tell. Your job is to tease it out of them. Your tools are the classic Five W’s, of journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why. Unlike a journalist, however, you don’t have to get all Five W’s at once. Just pick one, go with it and follow the conversation trail.
First, grab a drink and walk around, until you find someone who looks interesting. Or maybe who looks as frightened and uncomfortable as you feel. Ask her/him about her/himself. People feel honored when you ask them to talk about themselves, and most will happily indulge you. When you express interest in someone, right from jump, they’ll have warm feelings about you. Warm is good!
So, you’re cruising, you’re surveying, and you spot someone you want to talk to. You could ask (because you notice his Beatles T-shirt), “Who’s your favorite Beatle?” (Of course, we all know the answer is “John,” but even if he flubs it, just go with it.) Use the other W’s to keep going: “When did hear your first Beatles song?”
Maybe you see someone with a fabulous necklace: “Where did you get that! It’s lovely!” Or someone with a program guide: “So, what workshops did you attend today?”
“Where are you from?” That one’s foolproof. Next, just ask about that place.
The Five W’s are your social lubricant. Just like sex, sometimes we need a little help getting things moving. And, the beauty is you don’t have to stress about what to say because the other person will do the talking and you’ll just respond to that.
You’re all set. Ready to head off to that big, wonderful room full of potential friends and contacts? No? No worries. Practice first on people you meet at random places — coffee shops, waiting rooms, in class — where the outcome doesn’t matter. This builds confidence and, who knows, you might meet someone really cool. Who may be throwing a party on Saturday!
Alright cub reporter — there’s your assignment. Now get out there and rock your inner Party God/dess!
— Email Debra DeAngelo at email@example.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com