In the world of business communication, we do a lot of schmoozing. It’s not a bad word; it’s not taboo—it’s what we do. We have to know how to mingle with finesse. It’s the art of schmoozing, and I think Urban Dictionary defines it best as: Talk that is business oriented, designed to both provide and solicit personal information but avoids overt pitching. Most often an artifact of ‘networking.’
So there you have it.
Now, how do you execute the schmooze like a pro?
I’ve done enough schmoozing over the years to offer a few pointers, especially for recent graduates, soon-to-be graduates, or those coming back in the game or switching careers. Overall, these would be my top nine recommendations…
- Have a firm handshake (but not too hard) and look people in the eyes. Staying engaged during the few minutes that you converse can make a big impression.
- Stay abreast of current news and issues so that should someone make a comment about world or national events, you are up on the issues. With today’s access to Twitter (most of my students say they get their news their first and then click to read stories) and online news site, you can scan the headlines and continue reading stories that may be conversation starters.
- Don’t be too serious. When you are schmoozing at functions, meet-and-greets, business mixers, or any type of events, be sure not to talk solely about business. Sometimes the last thing people want to talk about at functions involve actual business issues. The most important thing is to be likeable.
- Be genuine. No one likes a phony. You don’t need to try too hard. Just be yourself. People typically like the real thing.
- Remember people’s names. One of the great tricks to remembering people’s names is, after you have been introduced, say the person’s name back to them. For example, the person may put out his hand for a shake and say, “Hi, I’m Bob.” You reply, “Hi Bob, nice to meet you. I’m Brian.” This is a good habit to get into and may help you remember people when you are meeting many new faces in one setting. Also, try to zone in on one thing you might have in common–it can help you remember people after the event is done.
- Don’t be too pushy. If you have a card, you can offer it. “May I give you my card in case you need anything?” Or, if you’d like to get that person’s card, ask in the same manner. “May I get a business card from you?” This is not the time to pitch too hard.
- Be positive. Don’t use the opportunity to meet new people as a therapy session to dump on your current employer, job, or rank. No one likes to mingle with Debbie Downer. Stay upbeat and light. Not too much heaviness.
- Ask people questions. Don’t monopolize the conversation, and be sure to pick people’s brains about various subjects. Stay curious–you’ll learn a lot more that way.
- Keep conversations brief and try not to linger too long. One of the great things about an event worthy of schmoozing is that you want to talk to as many people as possible. Making connections—sometimes lasting ones that can turn into meaningful jobs or friendships—is the goal, after all.