How to mingle at a party


How do you get the courage to mingle at a party, especially an office party? Whom to approach, whom to avoid ... it's so confusing. But Sarah Ivens, former editor of OK Magazine U.S. and author of numerous etiquette books, has tips that will make you the life of the party.

How to mingle at a party
  • Have confidence, and know that there are lots of other people in the room in the same situation as you -- shy about mingling.
  • Body language says a lot. It’s hard to resist a smiling, friendly person who says, “I’ve heard about you and I wanted to meet you.” Don’t stand in a corner alone with your arms crossed, scowling.
  • It’s good to admit that you’re nervous about mingling at parties -- maybe even blush a bit if you can.
  • Don’t try to mingle with a bunch of guys who are standing around drinking vodka together; they’ll have the wrong impression of your intentions.
  • Go to the buffet table. You’ll find others mingling, probably alone, and you can always talk about the food.
  • Avoid bitchy women who are looking you up and down and judging you.
  • Have a drink when you get to the party, not before, and drink slowly. Don’t be the drunken girl people will talk about.
  • Also, read the newspaper that day to find some things to talk about. Celebrity gossip at a holiday party is always welcome, as opposed to politics or religion. Have several topics in mind that you can talk about -- it makes mingling much easier.

LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach for howdini. We're going to talk about mingling at a holiday party, something that fills a lot of people with dread. Sarah Ivens is here; she's the editor-in-chief of America’s OK! and the author of many books on etiquette. What is the secret to mingling?

SARAH: Having a bit of confidence and knowing that everyone else in that room will find it as difficult as you to mingle, because it is embarrassing. You're putting yourself out there and going up to new people, or people you want to impress a bit more, and it is intimidating. But there are a few easy tips to get you through that.

The first things are about body language. Really, I mean if you smile and you go up to people confidently and say, “Look, I'm on my own, I’ve heard about you, I'd love to meet you.” You would have to be a really hard person not to be warm and reciprocate kind wishes to that person or chat to them. So be smiley. Approach people; just don't be too nervous. The worst thing you can do when trying to get out there and mingle is to stand in a corner kind of with your arms crossed, scowling at people.

LISA: That's what I do. What about if you say to somebody, “I'm really nervous, I don't like to go to parties by myself.” Wouldn't that be very winning?

SARAH: I completely agree with that. You know, if you can produce a bit of a blush as well at the same time, perfect! I'm completely up to just being honest and saying, “This is intimidating, I'm a bit shy here, I don't know anyone.” But you know, pick the right people to go up to. Don't go up to a group of boys getting drunk at the bar doing vodka shots, because if you go up to them and say, “Oh, I feel vulnerable. I don't know anyone here,” they’re going to think something else. So you head for the buffet, that is a great place. That is where I always go when I don't know anyone, not because I am a huge pig — well, I can be — but more so because that is where you find other people that are mingling, you know, and or trying to mingle. And they might be on their own and they’re nervously caressing a sausage, but you know, trying to pass the time. You can spot the other people that are on their own at the buffet. Then it's easy to start a conversation,“Oh, I like caviar or I don't like caviar,” or whatever. It's an easy place to start conversations, so that's a good place.

LISA: Who else should you avoid?

SARAH: You should avoid the group of the very bitchy women that are sort of eyeing your outfit up and down because they are not going to make you feel good about yourself. And if anyone is harsh or rude to you, instantly that will knock your confidence for the rest of the evening and you will find it even harder to go on and mingle with anyone else.

LISA: A lot of us think that if we have something to drink we will loosen up, we’ll get easy and will be less inhibited. Do you recommend having a drink before the party to do that?

SARAH: Not before the party; but I'm totally up for as soon as you get there heading to the bar and having a glass of wine. And that glass of wine shouldn't be downed immediately, it should stay in your hand for a good few minutes.

LISA:Don't get drunk, I know, everyone thinks, “Oh come on.”

SARAH: No, not immediately. No, leave an hour! I mean really, just — you know — make a few friends before you make yourself look really silly because you may think you're fabulous.

LISA: You'll need someone to carry you out, first of all.

SARAH: Exactly, so you know you may think that you're fabulous and you've got all this confidence and you're looking quite sexy and you're making great conversation, but really, you will be the person with no friends at the party. You know, you will become the drunken friend at the party and it's a bit sad really. Not very dignified.

LISA:Well, and again, people will talk about you the next day and not in a flattering way. Do you have conversational techniques?

SARAH: Yeah, I mean, the best thing to do is to have something to talk about. Something general, obviously. You don't launch straight into a chat about religion or George Bush; so the key, I find, is to read the newspaper that day. Sounds really silly, but a lot of us don't have time to read newspapers every day. Make sure you do. If you are going to a big event where you want to make conversation, be impressive; just know what's going on. Make sure you read the newspaper that day. And then for a bit of fun, if it is a Christmas party, go on or something and read the latest celebrity gossip; because everyone loves celebrity gossip.

LISA: Really?

SARAH: Oh yeah.

LISA: So you can get through this season without too much pain?

SARAH: I think so.

LISA: Thank you so much. For howdini, I'm Lisa Birnbach.

meet theexpert
  • Sarah Ivens

    Sarah Ivens Author and Former Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine Sarah Ivens, author and former Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine, is a born and bred Londoner who moved to New York to launch OK! Weekly Magazine in April 2005. more about this expert »