Tips for Working a Mixer
Knowing what to look for will help you use business events to your
By Ivan Misner
Effective networking at a business event or mixer is an important skill that
entrepreneurs should learn to help build their business. Many times when
entrepreneurs attend the ever-popular networking mixer, they have a
difficult time reading the crowd and knowing when and where to get started.
Sometimes, that seems to be the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs in
networking. They may say to themselves, "I don't want to just barge in.
Where do I start? Who do I talk to?"
Being able to assess the room is an important beginning for the process. For
example, look at diagram A, below. Here is a top-down view of a portion of
the room during a business mixer. For the person entering the room (like the
individual with the "?" in the bottom right corner), it's hard to determine
where to start in the networking process.
With that in mind, consider this. The next time you're attending a
networking mixer, take note of how people stand physically grouped together.
You'll find that people stand with their bodies clearly indicating whether
or not they're open to having someone approach and join them or not. In
other words, literally look for "open" vs. "closed" groups.
What do I mean by open vs. closed groups? Compare diagrams B and C below.
You'll note that in diagram B, the two people are standing parallel to one
another with their shoulders squared off in a way that doesn't make it easy
for anyone to enter the conversation. It is a "closed two" group. However,
in diagram C, you will note that the two parties are standing slightly
askew, which makes it easier for someone to join the conversation. This is
an example of an "open two."
The same rules apply to groups of three individuals. When they have closed
the circle, it indicates that they're having a more private conversation or
aren't interested in meeting someone else at that moment. This would not be
the group to break into and introduce yourself.
Sometimes, the closed threes do open for a time and then reclose. As you
watch the group, take the opportunity to come in the group during the times
when they are physically open. This usually indicates the ebb and flow of
conversation and lets you know that there's a break in the intensity of
conversation, or at least in the privacy of the conversation.
When three people have opened their circle, usually with a slight break
between two of them, you can clearly see that there's room for another
person to join in the group. These are the configurations to look for in a
group of people where the majority of them are businesspeople you don't
Being able to read any size crowd and gauge when to come into a group of
two, three or more people who are networking is an acquired skill. If you
aren't able to learn this concept, you might be destined to attend event
after event and finally make the presumption that networking events aren't a
good way for you to make connections or develop new networking partners.
This couldn't be further from the truth. You must put yourself out there
into the mix for it to work. I like to say, "Networking is a contact sport."
In order to make those connections, you need to successfully gauge the
warmth of the smaller gatherings of people at the mixer.
Take another look at diagram A, above. Can you spot the open and closed
groups? It's amazing how the same diagram makes sense when you look at it
from the perspective of open or closed groups.
Often people who attend the mixer together will stay grouped together for
the entire event. As the event unfolds, however, they'll open and close
their grouping. I've seen this happening and watched as networkers who were
savvy to this concept came into the grouping as it opened, met the attendees
and then moved around the room meeting others, collecting business cards of
future contacts for their successful networking efforts.
By utilizing the analogy of open and closed threes, you'll find that the
next networking mixer you attend will be more profitable, as well as more
About the Author:
Called the "Father of Modern Networking" by CNN and the "Networking Guru" by
Entrepreneur magazine, Dr. Misner is considered one of the world's leading
experts on business networking and has been a keynote speaker for major
corporations and associations throughout the world. He has been featured in
the L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times, as well as numerous
TV and radio shows including CNN, CNBC, and the BBC in London.