how to work a crowd

I wanted to repost something I saw on LiquidMatrix that I think is easily missed amongst the other security headlines they post: How to Work a Crowd (~6 minute video).

Lord knows I’m not a socialite. I’m a happy introvert which causes me to be a bit quiet. You wouldn’t know that from how I might interact online, but online is vastly different…and I’ve been doing this online thing for 15+ years in various forms and commitments, so it’s pretty old hat for me. This video is actually a nice reminder that very simple things really do work. And knowing is half the battle…

So here are some more tips off the top of my head, not just me throwing them out to anyone reading, but thoughts to remind *myself* of things to continuously work on.

– Smile/eye contact. This is something I’ve particularly been working on recently.
I used to do this naturally as a kid, but having the last name “Dickey” and being a reserved, smarty nerd was complete invitation for the less pleasant treatments in public schools. That, along with puberty (yay!), and maybe some other personal tidbits in my nuture/nature changed my behavior and I tended to avoid and not smile as I grew up. I actually did actively want to stick to myself rather than invite conversation. So, smile, make and hold eye contact, and that is usually invitation to either smile back or break the ice. Besides, as an introvert, you can’t go wrong with this and you might be rewarded for it.

– Get someone talking about themselves and be truly interested.
Ever go on dates? The best dates come in two flavors (not counting scoring). First, fun dates where you just have a blast and have something to do that you both can enjoy, without being all that deep. Second, dates where you talk together and learn about each other (the ol’ dinner dates). Everyone has stories and loves to talk about themselves. The best dates occur when you talk only enough to keep the other person talking about their past/interests/self, and you listen properly attentively and take mental notes. There’s always time to share your own opinions and thoughts and stories later on (besides, why blow your mystery early on?!). (Having told my stories and opinions a multitude of times online and offline, you eventually get over that need to vomit them out immediately once a chance arises.) Simple conversation. No encounter or date goes terribly well without conversation, unless you’re a model or movie star.

– Learn to avoid the small talk.
I hate small talk; I really do. It’s useless and impersonal and typically uninteresting. Yes it *is* windy out, thanks for commenting. Sometimes small talk is necessary and it takes effort to steer from the initial tendency to small talk over to something far more interesting and personal. This is a skill I have yet to hone, but is on the list! Try to talk about something of immediate interest to the other person, like their witty Jinx shirt, the event you’re attending, the sticker on their laptop cover, or someone else nearby you can both share a laugh at. One thing to look out for: small talk is a common opener, so be sure to not scowl when it is offered, but just learn to steer away from it. I might hate it, but that might be other people’s schtick!

– Just let go.
There’s a reason alcohol starts so many parties and loosens lips (yeah, pun..uhh..intended): lowered inhibitions. Try to lower your inhibitions on your own. Who cares if you make an ass of yourself? It’ll make for a funny story later on. Who cares if you fuck up and look dumb? Do one will die and life will move on. Who cares if you misjudged someone’s interest and got an eye-roll and cold shoulder? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Extroverts do this naturally, but us introverts have an amazingly hard time with this, myself included. As said in the above video, most everyone else is just as nervous as you are. Take a deep breath, send the inviting body language signals, and actively dip a toe in the water.

By the way, humans are the only animals that blush; or need to (Twain, I believe). Keep that in mind.

– Embrace public speaking.
This is easier to do in school when such opportunities are often unavoidable, and they come in two flavors: First, just speak up in class when a question is posed. If you’re wrong, so what? The teacher will appreciate the opportunity/chance. (I had a blast in Philosophy/Literature courses and got prof recommends for it, just because I participated whether I was right or wrong.) This is a form of public speaking and you’ll find your voice quickly. Second, speaking in front of others, front and center! If you’re in a group and need to give a presentation, volunteer to be the speaker. Seriously, you might shake while up there, but that usually is because you don’t care for what you’re speaking about or because you’re just not used to it. It really will go away if you solve both those issues, and you solve the second by simply getting up and doing it a few times. So, if you have a speech to give in college to a small class of people who likely won’t even be listening, embrace it fully and go for it. We all know how often such opportunities are never forced on us later in life and we end up just hiding and avoiding them! The end result is knowing how to hold yourself with someone’s eyes on you, and how to speak without sounding like a muttered whisper.

– Be interesting.
This might be hard to always do, but if you can get away with it, go for it. Wear a shirt that gives someone else an opportunity to see an interest of yours (Lan party shirt? You’re a gamer!) or something else that may give clues. If you’re fashionable, be fashionable. Or if you’re like me, wear your interests on your sleeve. (Even my car screams infosec since that’s what my plate says.)

By the way, you’re not a social engineer if you can’t work a room…just sayin.’

One thought on “how to work a crowd

  1. Absolutely amazing! You’re blog is one of my favorites for a long time now, but with this post you are now in my personal Hall-of-Fame 🙂
    Thanks for writing this!

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