Opening Lines for Mingling

‘Tis the season for mingling at art openings (always in season!) and holiday parties. Today’s Art Marketing Action newsletter gives you some tips and mentions Jeanne Martinet’s book The Art of Mingling, which was featured in an NPR story.

I’ve written a few other things on getting out and meeting new people:

Got mingling tips? Leave them for us!

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7 comments to Opening Lines for Mingling

  • This is such a great topic for today for me because I was just accepted into a very prestigious art organization; the American Academy of Equine Art. As a consequence, I will be attending meetings and show openings and will probably have more exhibition opportunities open up as a result. I am an extremely shy person and really freeze up in social situations. The last time I went to an opening it was with my husband. The gallery was very crowded, and everyone was talking in small groups, and we were pretty much ignored. After viewing the art, we left, and I was discouraged. I am wondering; how do you approach a group of people who are engrossed in conversation without feeling like an intruder? Do you interrupt someone talking, stand quietly waiting to be noticed or look for another opportunity to approach someone?? Social situations are agonizing for me, but I know that I HAVE to get more comfortable and learn to mingle.

  • Alyson, Thanks for this very timely information. We needed this information last Saturday evening at a reception for a new art gallery in our town. It is reassuring to know that we are not alone in feeling so awkward when you must go to an opening where you know absolutely no one. We really enjoy your newsletters and your blog. Thanks! Tommy and Marie Thompson

  • I’d like to encourage your blog readers here. I used to be a very shy person, and parties, events, networking was torture. Now I enjoy going to events, parties, openings alone and mingling. What made a difference? I had a lot of coaching over the years, with books and friends, and I practiced. I became bold. Some things I learned: Think about the other person. It takes your mind off you. Smile a lot and make eye contact. People will find you approachable. Wear something stunning. A color, a scarf, a jewel. Something that either men or women will feel at ease commenting on (without the suspicion of hitting on you.) My favorite escape hatch is the introduction: invite a new person in to meet the one I am talking to, and when they are engaged, excuse myself. Sometimes it helps to move toward the refreshment table, invite the person along. One or the other of you will run into someone else, and break the spell. It is also ok to make mistakes and be embarrassed. These moments can be memorable if handled with grace and humor. I am fortunate to live in a small community with a vibrant art scene, and two or three active Chambers of Commerce. Business and social gatherings tend to be very relaxed in Maine. It helps when every one is wearing LL Bean boots. After 13 years, it is hard for me to walk into a room where I don’t know a lot of people. I am eager to try my mingling in a new place where I don’t know anyone. That will be fun, and a great business move. One more thing. If I am feeling low, off, tired, I go home. I don’t push it if I am not feeling positive and energetic.

  • I usually begin by talking to someone by introducing myself, because I’ve noticed that many people who are successful at networking do this. These people do it right away, even if they are famous or well-known, because it puts the other person at ease — they don’t have to try to struggle to remember a name. The other tip I read long ago in Barbara Walter’s now out-of-print book, How to Talk to Anyone about Anything. She suggests that once you know what a person does, be it art or banking, ask them some question that gets back to their roots — how did they get involved in that profession or passion, or what was their first studio like… you may have to be a little creative on how to phrase the question. But t often takes the person out of the current situation to something they are passionate about.

  • This is such good news. I’m not alone! I think it helps me step up and introduce myself if I realize that that person there is probably feeling as awkward as I am. You’re right about asking someone questions about themselves. I know that when people ask me those kinds of questions that give me plenty to talk about, it really puts me at ease. Having a mental list of good questions ready to ask helps me to relax, as well. Sometimes I feel so introverted that if I only even talked to my husband I’d be as happy as a clam. But, other times, I turn into another person and feel very confident, and am not afraid. If only I could find that switch and turn it on at will. Thanks for the topic.

  • Right on target,Alyson, and right on time. I am at a conference in Austin over the next couple of days — both a topic (Pachyderm authoring software) and a crowd (museum educators mostly from out of my immediate region) that are off my turf. At the reception tonight I practiced mingling, even though I was in the top 20% of age and the only one wearing a non-organizational id tag that I could see (well, at least “consultant” made me stand out.) Fortunately the organizers provided an icebreaker — give yourself 3 tags then find 5 others who share them and add your list to a drawing for gift certificates — and that helped (Note to meeting organizers). Then I used the straightforward “Why are you here and what do you hope to get out of it? ” and really ended up having some meaningful conversations. I think we all resist these kinds of things, because it sometimes seems so superficial, but I find that if I really do listen, I often hear something of interest.

  • Alyson: Great comments about mingling. It can be challenging. One secret I use to make it easier is I pretend I am the host of the gathering. As the host I am responsible for making sure everyone is having a great time. I mingle and ask people if they are enjoying the event, how they heard about it and other hosty type questions. It totally takes the pressure off, I feel more relaxed because after all I am just doing my job. And to tell you the truth I must be very good at it because several times people have thought I was some how connected to the event! Rachelle