Here’s what conventional wisdom says about how to meet people at a business gathering — a reception, meet up, or conference.
Find a person who is standing alone. Approach this person. Introduce yourself.
A person alone is presumed to be open to meeting others. The two of you satisfy a mutual need. And you aren’t breaking into an existing conversation.
But introducing yourself to one person has some drawbacks. Individuals can be hard to approach because they have their defense shields up. You know what I mean, that person who is looking at their phone in an effort to appear busy. Then once you introduce yourself, the conversation may become awkward or you could find you have nothing in common. Then it can be hard to extricate yourself.
Here are two ideas for meeting people that fly in the face of the conventional wisdom.
Find a Pair
Kimberly Weisul is a writer and reporter. She gets invited to a lot of meet-and-greets. Like many people, she cringes at the idea that she can “walk into a room full of strangers and walk out with “connections.”
Everything changed after her friend told her the trick he uses.
Here’s what he said: “When he walks into a room alone, he looks for pairs of people who are talking, and introduces himself to each person in the pair.”
But wait a minute. When you see two people talking, isn’t it rude to interrupt?
Weisul explains what her friend told her:
Everyone else is there to meet other people, too, he explained. So if you see a pair of people, the chances are that they arrived together and know they should be mingling. Or else they’ve just met and are, in the back of their minds, worried that they’re going to end up talking to this one person all night. (One of these people may be trying to get out of the conversation; you’ve just made it easier for them to exit.) Either way, they’re relieved to see you. And your chances of having a decent conversation are better, because now you’re talking to two people, not just one.
So, concludes Weisul, “twos are the best bet, and after that, threes.”
The Friend Paradox
Tom Tunguz, an investor at Redpoint, uses a different method. He learned it from Ferenc Huszar who calls it the Friend Paradox.
The heuristic goes like this:
- Pick a random person in the crowd, and ask her (or him) if she knows anyone at this meetup.
- When she points at someone (and after a polite duration of conversation) go talk to that person instead. The friend paradox quickly identifies people in the room who are more connected and who will be more useful to meet.
The friend paradox lets you quickly meet the most connected people in the room. If you bring value to them, these superconnectors can become a helpful contact and friend. They can identify and introduce members of their network to you. They are the kind of person you want to meet at a networking event.