27 November 2009 | Steve Bagshaw
Entering a crowded room, hoping to meet somebody to speak to at a work event need not be as daunting as you fear.
There are several tricks you can use to start and end useful conversations with strangers. According to Christopher Barrat, consultant and author in procurement development skills: "As soon as you walk into a room, you are transmitting signals, whether or not you think you are - you are".
Speaking at an Office Depot procurement and supplier forum on Wednesday, he described how "singles" or people standing alone were always a good bet when looking for somebody to talk to. But he added that it may be difficult or awkward to end those conversations once they had reached their natural conclusion. He offered delegates hints on how to do this without causing offence. These included: "Going to get some more refreshments," and, as a last resort: "Just going to the loo".
Barrat, from The Greystone Partnership, also described the "wedding line" group of individuals whose body language is likely to welcome your joining their group but warned against the "closed group," a huddle of three or four people facing each other and all with their backs to potential joiners. "These are probably in deep conversation so leave them to it," he advised.
To the relief of everybody at the forum he confirmed that all of us feel the same anxieties about talking to people at these events.