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By: Joseph Licata

As I was beginning my career in fashion I received some great advise from my boss, “Go to every industry event and talk to as many people as you can.” To be honest, it was terrible at first. It sounds easy, but it’s a lot harder than you might think. But after a while walking into a room and striking up conversation with strangers becomes second nature. Soon you realize this skill transcends networking and is helping in other areas of life, like making new friends or chatting up that attractive soul at the bar. So to help you cut the learning curve a bit, here are a few things to remember the next time you’re in a room full of strangers:

Don’t be an ass. Because the first impression is indeed everything. It’s all about being confident. It’s not about being an ass, but it is about having a little bit of swagger. So before you head out, crank up your favorite anthem and get your game face on. And if that doesn’t work, fake it.

Don’t delay. You’ve arrived and are faced with a sea of unfamiliar faces. The worst thing you can do is delay. Walk up to the first person that you see (yes, the coat check counts) say hello and introduce yourself. This breaks the uncomfortable feeling and puts you on the right track. The key is not to over complicate it, just reach your hand out and introduce yourself. 

The shake. Don’t under estimate your handshake, it’s important. A firm, deliberate grip is all you need. Pair the shake with straight eye contact and a smile. Master this and you’ll have the reigns.

Set the tone. Most people aren’t thrilled about driving the conversation, so take the opportunity. After introducing yourself, set the tone of the conversation. Start with a few simple questions, share a bit about yourself, but keep the questions rolling. Be fully engaged in who you’re talking to. It can make or break the moment. 

Move on. Nobody wants to feel like they are being interviewed, So avoid this by exiting gracefully. End the conversation after five minutes and move on to the next person. Since you’re driving the conversation this shouldn’t be too difficult. This amount of time will give you just enough time to capture something interesting about the person that you can remember later.

It’s about ego. After you’ve made the rounds and met a few other folks, circle back with someone you’ve met. Introduce them to another guest, mentioning that interesting anecdote about them. The key here is that the impression that you leave is driven by what you’ve decided to remember about the person. Not what they’ve remembered about you. Yes, it’s playing on their ego, but it works.

It’s not a numbers game. Keep track of who you’d like to connect with again. As the night starts winding down, now is the time to reengage and ask for their contact information. The next day send a quick email or text.

You’ve done your job. You won’t hit every night out of the park, but trust me follow this advise and you’ll do just fine.