Five Communication Tools for your First Solo Outing in Meetup

In my previous article I talked about some wonderful places to make new friends all of which you should attend or visit on your own. I mention online sites for meeting friends such as Meetup.com and LinkedIn. I also mention community type groups such as college or continuing education, cooking classes, book clubs, wine tastings, charity events, volunteer organizations, travel clubs and many others as a way to meet people.

Yet it takes a particular type of personality to meet people, engage with them, read their social cues, begin a conversation and ultimately start a friendship.

I used to be a door to door saleswoman – Yes, I used to show up at businesess as an account executive.  It takes a certain communication style and no fear attitude to just walk in and start a conversation and get the information you need to even begin a sale. That’s what you are doing – you are selling yourself.  What helped me the most wasn’t my glossy slick cover presentations or notecards with questions to ask, it was just plain listening.

Most times on first meeting, I never brought in anything except maybe a blank notepad.  I asked people about their business, what they do, how they do it, who they do it for.  What are they most proud of? What do they do best? What do they want to improve. Everything they said I listened and so the way for you to communicate is to Ask! Listen, then listen some more, then ask, then listen!  It’s really quite easy and I will show you how.  Remember, silence is ok, because it will prompt the other person to talk.

Friendships start from common ground! Like a love relationship, you usually need to have something in common. That’s why friendships with married women seemed to work when you were married. You had something in common – you were married, you talked about married life, you talked about your husband, your house, and your kids. Now as a divorced woman, you sit there while your married friends talk about their husbands and you just listen and think to yourself, “Thank goodness I dont’ have to go through that!”

Lesson #1 – How do you enter a room?
Do you constantly text and call the host ten times to make sure they are there because you are not walking in alone and lost? Too bad, walk in with confidence even if you are lost. Ask the hostess about where your party might be sitting. If all else fails, sit at the bar – sometimes people are late. How you walk in the room and if you walk in with shoulders upright, a big smile, and NOT on the phone portrays confidence. You are approachable and eager to make friends.

Lesson #2 – What’s your opening pitch?
How do you say Hi? Introduce yourself, greet, shake hands, (the whole time you are already smiling!) Once they acknowledge and introduce themselves – have an even genuine bigger smile and show some excitement because you are really glad and also relieved you found them and the group.

Lesson #3 – Have standardized questions ready and be prepared to listen! These are typical questions that people will ask. How do you like this meetup group? How long has this group been around? How long have you been in the group? What do you like about it? What was the last meetup like? Who else is in the group?

Standardized questions allow you to assess who is there, who you can make contact with and provides information for you to figure out what the heck you are going to talk about. You picked this group because you had something in common now go make that something happen.

Lesson #4 – Listen, observe, approach, and engage You’ve just done your homework, you asked standard questions. You have some basic information about the group and its members, so pay attention.

Scenario – you are at a wine tasting, and you notice someone has just tried the Moscato, what do you do?

Ask them how they like it! What do they think? What would they pair with it? Then listen. Then ask some more questions. The night is about listening moreso than talking. Ask them if they tried other wines. Introduce yourself and admit if you are trying out this meetup group for the first time. If you give your name, typically they follow suit. Watch body language, if they want to talk to you they will have open body language like leaning in, arms unfolded, smiling etc. Ask others around if they also tried the Moscato and what their opinion is and bring them into the conversation with you and your newfound friend.

Lesson #5 – Now it’s time to say goodbye So the night has come to an end and it’s time to go. The best way to end the evening is to acknowledge everyone and how you had a pleasure meeting everyone. Now comes the awkward area of asking for a person’s information. If you had a great time, it will be easy; they may just give it to you. Ask a lead in question such as – When’s the next meetup? Are you going to the next meetup? Let’s keep in touch before the next meetup. Ask for the opportunity to 1) exchange numbers via cell 2) exchange business cards 3) Ask if they are on Facebook or just say “Friend me on Facebook.”  Sometimes it’s the way you ask – make your “asking” sound like a command or that it’s such a great thing to do, why not.

The additional thing is people may just try to find you on Facebook anyway. If you want to be friends, then just friend away. These are GENERAL guidelines so I probably missed a few, if you have anything to add, leave it in the comments section. I’m excited to hear your suggestions.

Notice how no mention of your marital status and your relationship problems came up. At a first meeting you are not judged by those things, you are only judged by the interest of the group at hand. In the scenario it was wine. It could be anything but make sure you engage. If you are trying to get more familiar with wines, you could mention that and you’ll have a ton of people want to teach you. If say you are a runner and you have a marathon under your belt, you may have people that come to you for advice. Your relationship status may be important on Facebook, but in a first time meetup to make friends, it’s insignificant so don’t worry.