Mastering Mingling at an Open House
By Carina Paton
Yet another wonderful opportunity to practice your mingling skills is nigh. That’s right, it’s Open House season again! As a club member, you have one of the most crucial roles at your club’s upcoming open house… to float and interact with guests.
Every club is unique because it is composed of unique individuals. And because you are one of those individuals you are the ideal spokesperson. Is your heart suddenly aflutter because you have no idea what to say to guests? Never fear, your mingling mastery guide is here!
By simply attending your club open house, you move up the mingling mastery ranks from a Notworker to a Safety Networker. I encourage you to use this upcoming event to push yourself to progress the next level in mingling mastery, which I call a “cabinetworker.”
The cabinetworker takes standard items that are stored on the shelf in their cabinet and uses them to help network. These are the building blocks that can help you make a new connection. Standard items many cabinetworkers have on their shelves are:
· Hi, I’m (name). And you?
· What do you do for a living?
· Where do you work/study?
· Where are you from?
These are great questions to pull out when you are making your first courageous foray into mingling. They are easy to ask, and because they are so commonly asked, generally easy to give a well-rehearsed answer to.
In the open house environment, we can stock much more valuable questions on our cabinet shelves:
· How did you learn about us?
Not only is this an extremely easy question to ask and answer (and therefore an easy way to begin a conversation), it’s a simple way to find out what marketing and outreach methods are working for your club.
· Why did you decide to come to our meeting today?
Asking about a guest’s motivations help us frame how we can help them. Rather than rattle off the myriad ways that Toastmasters is beneficial, it’s much more effective to listen to the guest’s motivations for coming, and then aid them in understanding how your club can help them meet their goals.
· What did you think about our meeting?
Asking this question one-on-one helps threefold: 1. It gives us immediate feedback on meeting from the perspective of a guest. 2. It gives the guest an opportunity to practice giving an evaluation in a non-threatening environment, and they feel that their opinions are heard and valued. 3. It can often serve as a bridge to further conversation on an aspect of the meeting or the club that they are interested in.
· Can I answer any questions?
Remember that guests are in an unfamiliar environment, and they may be afraid to speak up. Asking this lets them know that it is okay to ask questions. Even if they can’t think of any questions right at that moment, it lets them know that you are willing to help them understand what Toastmasters is all about.
· Would you like to join our club?
This is the question that guests are often waiting to be asked, so don’t be afraid to put it out there!
Now that you have the tools to be a proficient cabinetworker at your upcoming open house, go and give your club all that you have. And remember: You can practice these mingling questions year-round. Every time there’s a guest at your club meeting is one more opportunity to push the boundaries of your comfort zone that little bit further. You might be surprised just how flexible those boundaries can be!
This is the third installment of a series encouraging fellow District 65 Toastmasters to take every opportunity to develop their mingling skills. The first two articles are Making Large Groups Less Scary and Push Past Your Safety Net.