Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fear Factor: Mingling

I have a confession to make. And it’s a big one. I have a morbid fear of mingling! I have no idea what to do at events, parties, award shows and general social functions when I don’t see familiar faces in the crowd. I can converse fine once I’m at a table with strangers, but it’s the schmoozing part that worries me most. I’m petrified at the prospect of just sauntering up to people and dropping into conversations. It’s frightening and I’m lousy at it. I turn into a human barnacle by glomming onto someone I know and holding on to them for dear life.

My worst experience was at an awards dinner last year where I judged the entries that were nominated. It was a new industry for me and therefore I didn’t know many of the players in the field. There was a cocktail hour prior to dinner so I purposefully got there late so I could be seated directly to my table. Murphy’s Law prevailed and the dinner was delayed by half hour which meant I had to linger in the atrium to make small talk with people I didn’t know. I was immobilized -- stuck there holding a glass of chardonnay while everyone else was laughing and having a wonderful evening. I didn’t know what to do – I ran to the ladies washroom and stayed there for almost 25 minutes until the dinner commenced. Ugh! I’m so ashamed.

I am envious of people who can glide around a room effortlessly. One of my former employees was a master at the mingling shtick. He worked a room like an artist works in acrylics and oils. I swear it looked like he was running for office the way he shook hands, passed out business cards and posed for pictures. I feel like such a tree stump.

I’m fretting over this personality defect as tomorrow night I am attending one of the city’s most glamorous charity galas: The Venetian Ball. I have literally over -spent on everything for this night to make a good impression! Including my ball gown, my imported Venetian mask yes, from Venice and my oversized chandelier earrings. The crème de la crème of high society will be there including my client Rudy Bratty of The Remington Group. All I can hope for is I can muster up enough courage to shake hands with a few of the fine folks attending and break out of this mingling apprehension. Hey, I’ll be wearing a mask so maybe anonymity is the key? Gee, I hope the ladies room is nice, I may be setting up camp for the evening!

The reason I am telling you all this is so you won’t mistake my aloofness at events as a sign of snobbery or unwillingness to talk to you. Quite frankly, I don’t know how to start a conversation so I ask you to make the first move. I know some of you can’t believe this revelation about little ol’ me, but in an era of blog transparency, I thought this first bit of nakedness to you all would be a good start.

I need an intervention.


Ed Lee said...

PR bunny in shock "i'm not a champagne charlie" announcement!

seriously, I hate that sort of stuff as well, so you're by no means alone!


Chris Clarke said...

This is the bravest blog post I've probably ever read. We blog, but we rarely reveal this much about ourselves. I'm not a fan of mingling and meeting, just because of the awkward pauses in between making small talk...the silence is deafening!

And I don't know how Ed does it - he comments at 8:21 PM and by my count it's only 8:18!

Duane Brown said...

I find making an indirect comment or talking about the food, good or bad, at an event gets people talking. Then just jump into industry stuff and what you do for a living. I've good and bad days at an event. I find a lot dpends on my mood and how I felt during the day.

Lisa Walker said...

I'm impressed because I saw you at that awards show dinner last year and I thought you looked both relaxed and glamourous.

I liked Third Tuesday because I met in person so many people whose blogs I read, so we were able to get past the small talk quickly and on to the substance.

Joscelyn said...

Hi Julie - First of all, great post. As a junior in the PR world, I see women such as yourself, who have founded a succesful agency, as role models and it's refreshing to hear that you can make all the happen without being a master shmoozer. I have the same problem- I'm fine at a table, but sauntering up to a conversation at a cocktail party or event is nerve-wracking, to say the least!
Thanks for being so open and honest and welcome to the blogosphere. It's good to have you!