How To Work A Room Like a Pro


Know the three zones, and the two to avoid!

In today’s edition, we’re talking about networking. More specifically, how to get an easy win from any networking or conference event.

How To Work A Room

Ready to start? This is going to be a game-changer for you.

By show of hands…

…how many of you reading this right now have gone to an event and are less confident in what to do once you get there?

There you are standing in front of a complete room of strangers. A big part of you can’t wait to get to the bar.

The other part wants to turn around and go back to your comfort zone.

The one thing you probably don’t want to do is talk to a stranger.

But in that crowd, there could be 3, 4, or 5 maybe more people who want and need your services.

How do you work the room? How do you find the needle(s) in the haystack?

Fret no more…

In her amazing book, Captivate, author Vanessa Van Edwards provides a blueprint to make this task a lot easier. And a lot more effective.

The Science Behind Working a Room

Van Edwards worked with the organization Science of People to conduct a series of experiments.

They filmed and tracked people’s movement through venues. They tracked each interaction and counted how many connections different people made.

They counted business cards received and took a look at new connections made on LinkedIn.

And what they found is really quite interesting.

The most successful connectors had a specific pattern for working a room!

It begins with understanding the layout and the zones for each event. Van Edwards breaks a room into three separate zones.  See the map below.

How To Work A Room Like a Pro 4

The zones are:

  • The Start Zone
  • The Social Zone
  • The Side Zone

As the name implies, The Start Zone is the launching off point for events. And this is the area where emotions run their highest. That’s important to remember.

Because when people first get to a new place there’s a lot to process.

Think about it.

  • You might be running late.
  • You might be wondering where you can put your coat.
  • You might be trying to meet someone.
  • You’re trying to get the lay of the room, i.e., where’s the bar and food?
  • You might have to go to the bathroom.
  • You’re glancing around looking for anyone you know.

Because all of this is going on, The Start Zone is a place of stress. And stress lowers confidence. That’s not ideal for striking up a conversation.

When you approach someone before they are settled, what happens?

For starters, you don’t have their attention. They’re distracted. They’re looking over your shoulder scoping out the room, trying to get their game face on.

In this zone, they are going to be more likely to head off and look for the bar, the buffet line, or a familiar face.

The Start Zone is no good for connections, but it’s perfect for quick hellos to get into the swing of things.

The other area, The Side Zone, might look promising, but it comes with traps.

As you can see in the map above, The Side Zone is where the bathroom is located.

You don’t want to wait outside of the bathroom for folks. It’s a bad look. Kind of creepy. So hard no on that zone. 

The second trap is the food line.

You don’t want to be hanging too close to that either. Yes, the food line will get a lot of traffic… but it’s hard talking when folks are trying to fill their mouth with a crab rangoon.

The final trap to avoid is the hardest… joining the people you know.

Look if the purpose of coming to this event is to get contacts, then just say hello to your friends and circle back to them at the end of the event.

Because once you connect and get settled in with your friends, it’s going to be too hard to break free.

How To Work A Room Like a Pro 5

And that takes us to The Social Zone.

This is where the gold is.

One area within this zone that could be promising is near the area where people are leaving the bar.

Remember the person standing in the Start Zone 10 minutes ago? Well, now she/he has their drink and they’re ready to talk.

Often these folks don’t want to drink alone, so you’re actually doing them a favor coming up and saying hello.

Another area that could prove productive is at the ends of the bar. These typically are prime connection points.

Not only will you get lots of traffic, but it’s also easy to start the convo rolling with, “How’s the wine?” Or “How’s the drink?” Or the simple but effective, “Hey there and cheers, welcome to name of the town.”

Both areas are prime connection points.

One more area to point out in The Social Zone is near the host.

Once you have worked the bar area, head over to the host. Say hello and thank you and then ask the host who you should meet.

From Van Edwards, here’s an opening line, “I just want to say thank you very much for your work on this event. I got a lot out of the speakers today. This is such a great group… is there anyone I should meet? And could you do a quick intro?”

Intro is made and the connections happen. Boom just like that.

So, next time you’re going to an event remember the three zones and make the most out of working the room!

Don’t know about you, but I sure wish someone would have given me that blueprint about 10 years ago. It would have helped a lot!

If you liked this tip, pay it forward by sharing with others before moving on!

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