Whether you’re at a networking event, business meeting or grabbing cocktails at the rooftop bar, there are many ways to shake up the dynamic-- and in your favor. Think of the most interesting man you know. Do people notice when they enter a room? When they talk, are they talking about themselves or asking questions? Are they playful? Do they seem to get away with cheeky humor that people seem to adore?
Some people are gifted with being naturally interesting, cool and mysterious. However, just like anything, it can be learned. All it takes is a little self-awareness, insight, and practice. Here’s how you can become the most interesting man in the room:
Set small goals and smash them
How many events have you gone to only to fizzle out then leave once things got too uncomfortable for you? All you could think about was your sweaty palms. That weird buzzing in your head when you are thinking too hard. Did I sound cool? I could have done that so much better.
The best case here is to create goals. Things you can measure that a) serve a purpose for your event and b) keep your mind off sabotaging yourself. Liberate your mind from facing the fact that you’re doing something really uncomfortable. And make it fun.
For example, exchange business cards with 5 people or introduce 3 strangers to each other.
“I just met someone who works in that industry! Here, let me introduce you.”
Simple. There’s something about rising to the occasion of suddenly playing host that brings out the best in you. The hero comes out. The hero is adored. And the hero is a leader.
You can really lean into it and even share your goals with the people you meet. It’s novel and fun. People find it interesting when others hack life. Even more so when you share hacks that work for you. Not only do you gamify something that you may hate doing but you enroll others into your goals. People love to feel included. Like they’re in on the ground floor for something really cool that’s happening.
There’s something powerful about being first. People who are first tend to lead others and are therefore perceived as leaders. A brave pillar of a man in an otherwise not-so-stimulating setting. Think about the guy who left that super long non-mandatory presentation first and how many people immediately got up after him. That guy who breaks the ice is everyone’s hero.
When at an event, show up a little early and get a feel for the landscape. Early attendees will typically ask people that are there already where basic things are: registration, bathrooms, and of course the open bar. Inbound communication always gives you leverage. You can take that opportunity to get to know them a little better. Not only do you create a sense of familiarity for the rest of the event, you also establish authority even if all you did was simply make yourself available to help others.
This also applies to the social aspect. Be the first to smile. First to make eye contact. First to stick your hand out and say, “Hi, I’m [insert name here]." Be the first one to start asking great questions. By leading in this way, you make everyone else in the room super comfortable. Ever notice how the most social guys seem to have the best energy around them?
Ask power questions
Honestly, if you had to pick one single tactic to move you forward forever in life, this would be it. Behold, the power of asking excellent questions. You can build the most powerful connections instantly by doing this. Gauge if a potential customer is ready to buy. Get people to share with you their deepest dreams, fears and everything in between.
How do you define a power question exactly and where do you find them? They’re always open-ended, often tap into the emotional motivation behind things, strategic, specific and usually come with equally awesome follow-up questions. When you’re able to really get people to think about their existence, you make an impact. You don’t get very far asking somebody what they do and where they work. By the end of the night, people are so fatigued answering these questions they probably avoid eye contact on purpose. Curate a better experience for yourself and others around you using this strategy. The best part is you can apply this to business, family, and dating.
Steve Jobs used to ask his engineers this question a lot: “Is this the best you can do?” A follow-up question for that could be, “How can I help you?” or, “Is there a decision you need from me?”
Amazon has some excellent books, and you can find a list of power questions with a quick Google search. Memorize about 5 sets of questions suited for the specific event and you’ll be good to go. Practice in the mirror. By all means, come up with your own. Ask yourself these questions. See how you’d respond and create follow-up questions accordingly. There isn’t a right or wrong way to ask a power question-- as long as it’s meaningful (and appropriate… usually).
Create playful tension
It’s time to take social dynamics to the next level. You’ve seen this play out in front of you at work but might not have been aware it was intentional. You might also be very aware of it and know this extremely well. High-level guys do it, and it’s part of a bigger tactic called framing.
There’s an art of pushing and pulling that creates a playful tension in social situations. When people socialize, there are chemical responses in the brain that guide the interactions. For example, dopamine and norepinephrine. When people experience desire, dopamine is flowing freely. When the brain experiences tension, norepinephrine is the culprit. Together, they gloriously form ATTENTION. And you can leverage this in your favor big time.
It plays out like this: Get somebody interested (offer a reward), create tension (take something away), suddenly, the person is on high alert and paying serious attention to what’s happening in front of them. Aka, you! It creates novelty, which in turn creates more dopamine. The balance of reward to tension is important.
An example could be spending hours talking to a prospective client at an event. Everything is going great. Belly-aching laughs and all. It’s time to make a call-- who initiates a later dialog about the deal you entertained all day?
Oren Klaff, the author of Pitch Anything, frames it perfectly:
Push: there’s a real possibility that we might not be right for each other.
Pull: but then again, if this did work out, our forces could combine to become something great.
Next time you’re at an event, try out a couple of these tactics. We’d love to know your experiences, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Power Questions, Andrew Sobel: Click to learn more.
Pitch Anything, Oren Klaff: Click to learn more.
Bebe Gene is a freelance writer and owner of Also Agency. Interests include personal development, virtual reality, design, and lifestyle. And dogs. Lots of dogs.