How Not To Work a Room

(from Flo)  How many networking events do we attend every year? A lot, if you’re like me. Some are successful, others are not. What makes the difference?  Is it the event, the attendees — or is it something we did or did not do?  In this guest article I wrote for the Media Magnetism blog, I tell you how to work a room — by telling you “How NOT to Work a Room.”

I am a contributing author to the book “MEDIA MAGNETISM: How to Attract the Favorable Publicity You Want and Deserve.” Our wonderful editor, Christina Hamlett, created the blog on the MM website.

APRIL 2014

“How Not To Work a Room”

From the Desk of Flo Selfman

xNETWORK: a group of people who keep in contact to exchange information. NET = WORK.

74% of all jobs are found through networking and 75% of all business deals come from networking, yet most people don’t know how to network.   – Hank Blank, networking expert.

If you want to sabotage your chances of being successful at business and social events, just follow these easy steps!

  1. Arrive late.
  2. Hang around the bar. Eat or drink too much.
  3. Sit with people you know.
  4. Don’t have business cards or copies of your book with you; or…
  5. Have business cards deep inside your purse or in the car, not in your pocket or hand, and don’t bother wearing a name tag.
  6. Have a limp handshake.
  7. Talk only about yourself and your business/book.
  8. When asked, “What do you do?” or “What is your book about?” talk for twenty minutes before taking a breath.
  9. Break into an ongoing conversation.
  10. Spend all your time talking to someone who can’t help you or isn’t interested in you or your book/business.
  11. If someone offers you a breath mint, say, “No, thanks.”
  12. Send a follow-up note and misspell the person’s name or use an incorrect title.

Seriously, it’s so easy to just run out the door and hope for the best. But with some advance planning, working the room can bring benefits to you and the people you meet. Whether the “room” is an elevator, conference, or chamber mixer, it can be a chance to shine.

BEFORE THE EVENT: Create and rehearse your “elevator speech.” Prepare everything needed for looking and feeling your best and being prompt. That means: making a trip to your dry cleaners, shoe repair, and beauty salon or barbershop; brushing your teeth, brushing off pet hair, and taking that requisite shower. It also means having access to cash/credit card, planning your route to the event, allowing enough time to arrive early. You’ve heard the saying, “If you’re early, you’re on time, and if you’re on time, you’re late.” It makes sense. Being among the first to show up allows you to greet people one at a time, letting you “own” the event. Once it’s in full swing, it’s much harder to join conversations. Have an objective, such as: I will talk to five strangers. I will set up one lunch meeting. I will meet two prospective clients.

AT THE EVENT: Place your business cards in your right-hand pocket for easy access. Put those you collect in your left-hand pocket after jotting a note on the back. Wear your name tag on your right side; when you shake hands, the eye follows your arm up to your name tag and reinforces your name and your face. Write your first name in large letters; include your last name. Be interested in others; be interesting to others. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Don’t spend too much time with one person; arrange to meet if he or she seems like a good business prospect. Make eye contact and SMILE.

AFTER THE EVENT: You’re not done yet. Put your materials away. Set up meetings. Send “friend” requests – but don’t add people to your lists without permission. Respect people’s privacy and always send blast emails as “bcc,” never “to” or “cc.”

Now – go forth and network!

Flo Selfman creates and implements PR campaigns for personalities, theatre productions, arts festivals, books and authors. She is an in-demand copy editor for scripts and manuscripts ( and teaches lively grammar/punctuation review workshops. Flo has been president of IWOSC – Independent Writers of Southern California ( since 2003.


How many other ways can you think of? I plan on writing a follow-up post and would love to hear from you!

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