Meet More People At Parties

They’re prime places to find fresh dating prospects…and these clever icebreakers and networking tactics will maximize your chance for romance.

By Julie Taylor

hen you’re a single looking to mingle, parties are golden opportunities: After all, where else can you find such a concentrated cluster of people looking to meet new people and have a good time? But if you tend to get tongue-tied or stuck in the corner talking to friends rather than scoping out fresh dating prospects, try some of the tricks below to expand your romantic opportunities—you’ll be swapping phone numbers in no time.

Enter the room with fanfare
Body language expert Patti Wood, M.A., C.S.P., author of Success Signals, says when you enter a room, you should go in slow motion. When you pause at the door, it frames
If you’re with pals at a party, disperse and reconvene when you’ve spoken to at least three new people.
you and attracts attention. Next, strike a pose: “Put your shoulders back,” Wood recommends. “Keep your head up and centered. Make eye contact with people in the room and smile.” She says when you smile and others smile back, this creates positive feedback that will energize you for the duration of the party.

Hang out by the bar
And it’s not just so you can imbibe more easily. “The bar is a great place to meet and greet, because people are drawn to it all night,” says Laurie Puhn, J.D., author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life. “When someone else comes up to get a drink, smile and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’” Instead of sidling up to the bar for the entire evening, Puhn recommends thinking of the bar as a safety zone—somewhere you can come back to periodically during the night. “If there’s a lull in the action of the party,” she says, “go to the bar and order yourself a water or seltzer—then linger a while to see whom you meet!”

Be choosy
Many partygoers end up talking to people who’ve approached them—but if you’re looking for love, you’re much better off having a say in who you talk to, don’t you think? So for starters, “never talk to someone before you ‘graze’ the party. This means looking around the room to see who’s looking back. Find the people who are interested in you,” advises R. Don Steele, author of Body Language Secrets: A Guide During Courtship and Dating. Then narrow your focus to the three people whom you’d like to get to know. Go up to them one by one and introduce yourself. When you shake hands, note how firm their handshakes are. Do they just offer the tips of the hands and give a weak grip? This means they’re not interested, according to Steele. “But if they cup the palm of your hand and give a genuine squeeze, this means they’re into you,” he says.

Pass the chips
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Lissa Kelly, 35, of Honolulu, HI, definitely agrees. When she goes to a party, she always hangs where the snacks are. “Food is a great ice-breaker for most people,” she says. “I’ll ask guys if they’ve tried a certain food, or ask them how the punch is—stuff like that. In fact, I met my last boyfriend by offering him a chocolate-chip cookie at a party!”

Try flying solo…
Most people bring a pal to a party—but when you go alone, you’re forced to talk to people you don’t know. (If you feel self-conscious, remember that you do know the host, so there’ll be at least one friendly face in attendance!) Puhn says flying solo gives you the opportunity to use what she considers to be the perfect self-introduction: “I don’t really know anyone here, so I just thought I’d say hello.” “That’s such a sweet and benign line that anyone can use in any situation,” Puhn says. Still nervous? Give yourself a time limit, like vowing to stay one hour. Even if you’re not having the best time, sixty minutes will pass in a flash.

…Or at least split up from your friends for awhile
If you’re with pals at a party, don’t be afraid to split off from the pack. After all, if you’re glued to chums the entire time, you won’t meet anyone new—and that should always be a top priority at a party. If they’re equally interested in meeting people, turn it into a game by saying, “OK, let’s disperse and only re-convene once we’ve each spoken to at least three new people.” That way it’s not like you’re abandoning each other for the entire night, you’re just egging each other on to get out there!

Stake out the door
Think about it: Everyone at that party has to come through the door at some point. That’s why Puhn recommends hanging by the door or even occasionally opening it for people
Concoct a crazy story about how you met the host—like, that you were runners-up in a yodeling contest.
and saying “Hi! The host appointed me part of the welcoming committee.” “People will be impressed that you’re so comfortable with yourself and outgoing,” Puhn explains, “and they’ll have a better time at the party because you’ve been so sweet.” Plus, you have a great opening line later: “Hey, remember me? I met you by the door!”

Do talk to the wallflower
There’s always one at every party: That loner hanging out in the corner, looking rather ill at ease. Most people’s natural instinct is to avoid wallflowers, but Puhn says it’s smart to make contact. Just because they’re shy doesn’t mean they’re not engaging, and they’re bound to be grateful you’ve made the first move. Just say, “I saw you standing here and wanted to say hi.” If the conversation goes nowhere, simply use one of the getaway lines described below to make your escape.

Have a getaway line
Say you’re talking to someone, and they decide to go into a 30-minute play-by-play about their recent gall bladder surgery. Instead of standing there nodding with a fake smile plastered on your face, have a pre-prepared “getaway line” you can whip out for just such an occasion. “Say you need to go check in with the host, get a drink or a snack, or go to the bathroom,” Puhn says, “then politely excuse yourself.” Puhn says having go-to getaway lines will encourage you to approach more people—just knowing you have an escape hatch will give you the confidence and freedom to take more chances.

Do stretch the truth (just a little!)
Puhn says a fun way to break the ice is to concoct a wild and crazy story about how you met the host. For instance, you could say you were once first- and second-runners up in a yodeling contest—the more outrageous your story, the better! Then, when the other person says, “Are you serious?” you can ’fess up and say, “Oh, no, we’re just co-workers—but the other story is more fun, don’t you think?” That can be a fun way to get conversation flowing if you’re a person who’s comfortable with that kind of banter—try it and see.

Julie Taylor is a writer in Los Angeles who’s written for Redbook and other publications.
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