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Working the Room at Networking Events

So, you’re booked into a networking event and you’re dreading it! We’ve all been there and I can promise you it does get easier with time. But what can you do now, at this very minute to help prepare you for walking into a room full of people you don’t know?

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How can you improve your confidence before you go? How do you know who to talk to when you get there? Read on to find out all about open and closed groups at networking events.

Our first tip is to remember that everyone in that room has been where you are today. They are either experiencing their first networking event, or can remember it like it was yesterday. No-one will laugh at you and no-one will ignore you. Keep a smile on your face and go shake hands!

But who should you approach?

This is where the knowledge of open/closed groups helps. Look at the people in the room. They are more than likely stood in little groups with a coffee in hand, engaged in conversation. Do any of the groups look approachable? Is there anyone, in particular, you want to talk to?

Let’s look at the body language for groups of two people.

Networking 2's example

Two people can either be stood slightly away from each other, in a mirror image, or directly opposite each other, deep in conversation. Which group looks more approachable? The body language of the Open 2’s naturally leaves a gap for a third person, whereas the body language of the Closed 2’s tells you to stay away, “we’re having a private conversation”. Now you know which group to approach, get that smile on your face and as you approach stretch out that arm ready for a hand shake and find your voice to say “Hi, do you mind if I join you?”.

So how does it work for groups of three?

Networking 3's example

Similarly to the theory for two people stood together, the group of three will also naturally close off or open up their group. Look at the diagram above; the Open 3 have naturally left a space inviting a 4th person to join them, whereas the Closed 3 are quite clearly preventing a 4th person from joining the conversation.

For larger groups of fours and fives, sixes and sevens

Networking 4's example

As more people join (or leave) a conversation the body language of the group will continue to change from open to closed. Here with the Closed 4’s, no-one can easily join the group, but as the conversation develops and changes, one person may slowly move their body at an angle to the others, turning the group into an Open 4 and enabling a space for a fifth person to join.

And that’s it. It really is that simple to work your way into a conversation at a networking event! Next time you go why not give it a try? After a while it becomes second nature and you’ll automatically find the Open Groups without even thinking about what you’re doing.

People in social events often do this without realising what’s going on. Why not try a spot of people watching next time you’re at the pub, a wedding or family event? Watch how people interact, and how a group of 2 will grow to 3 and 4 and then as the conversation changes, watch how the group closes. Or perhaps watch as a large group loses a few people; do they stay open, or close themselves off?

But be warned, once you start people watching its hard to stop!

Urban Feather are members of the North Lincs Fusion BNI Group. If you’d like to visit our next networking event, why not get in touch with Kate. She’d be happy to take you along as her guest.


Urban Feather took time to understand our corporate philosophy and way of working before starting to develop our product, and this was extremely valuable in ensuring the end result fulfilled all our expectations first time.

Mark Hilton, AYR
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