Groups come with a lot of moving parts. No one can predict exactly what someone else will say, who will show up, or where you’ll even be. While that's part of the fun of being in a group, it can be stressful if you're not sure how to behave or what to say in group settings.
In these situations, it’s normal to feel excluded and anxious. It’s normal to wonder, “What do these people think about me?” All of these things are normal.
But with the right tools and a little bit of practice, you can be as confident talking with a group of strangers as you are with your close friends.
Think about it. How many people just show up to a group event and stand there with their backs against the wall, expecting to be entertained by someone else?
That’s not only rude, it's a terrible strategy for making a good impression. When you do this, you’re leaving what everyone thinks of you up to chance.
The better approach is to take control of the situation -- so you decide how people remember you.
What should be on your list?
People want to talk about what other people are talking about. To get a shortlist, just look at the news, Twitter, or Facebook. The trending topics on these platforms are the perfect kinds of things to bring up in group conversations. Plus, they make for easy icebreakers and allow you to be proactive in striking up conversations.
It encourages people in the group to chime in and say, “Yeah! I saw that! That was crazy!” Or you’ll have others who say, “No, what’s happening?” Then you can explain it briefly to kickstart a deeper conversation.
It’s a great way to get a group conversation rolling along and everyone engaged.
When you spend some time planning these things out, you can have some conversation ideas on hand that give off the impression you want.
For example, if you want to make people laugh, prepare a few jokes and a list of funny things to talk about. If you want people to know you’re intelligent, do a little research and put together a list of fun facts to drop into a discussion.
The point is by doing this up front, you remove all the guesswork. You're prepared with material to use when the opportunity is right.
The next step to making a great impression in group events is to engage everyone.
One thing that irritates me at group events is when you see two people having a conversation all by themselves. Sometimes they'll even talk loud enough that no one else can speak.
Don't be those people. If you're speaking, engage other people as much as you can.
You can do it by using my humbly titled: S.E.T.H.I. technique.
Smile: Simple, but very effective. In a group, you naturally trust, like and gravitate toward people with genuine smiles. In the beginning, forcing yourself to smile more might feel fake, but keep practicing. It's worth it.
Energy: Take whatever energy level you’re at now and add 50% more energy. Test it in small, anonymous places like at a coffee shop. See what kind of reactions you get. Then work up to using it at work and with your friends. You’ll be amazed at the difference. Don't believe me?
Here's the difference in action:
Talk Slower: Fast talking is a sure-fire way to make people tune out. If you're a fast-talker, forcing yourself to slow down, while awkward for you, will be a welcome change to your listeners.
Hands: Your hands can be very expressive. Adding gestures (and not hiding your hands in your pockets or crossing your arms) can dramatically improve your communication.
Eye Contact: The most socially fluent people don't avoid eye contact, nor do they stare down other people. They look at you, they look away, then they come back. You can practice this rhythm, too.
When I first moved to NYC, I wanted to go out and enjoy the nightlife but didn’t know anybody. Even though I was desperate to unwind and have fun after a long week of work, I stayed in and spent many of those nights alone.
My phone never rang, nobody texted me, I just sat there bored out of my mind. It was the WORST. I don’t want you to have any nights like that.
In the 8-minute video below, you’ll see my 2-step process for getting more invites to events and parties (and spending fewer Fridays alone).
Particularly pay attention to:
All these tactics help you once you’ve gotten a conversation to spark. But sometimes you’ll need an extra push -- a way of deeply connecting with people even if it feels a little weird at first.
That’s why I want to share one of my favorite interviews with you. It’s from a session I had with one of my good friends Ron Lieber.
Here’s just some of what we covered in our conversation:
Takes 5 minutes to review the checklist before you go out. It’ll help you confidently approach groups of people you don’t know -- and be warmly welcomed into their circle.