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The Search for New Friends: At the Event

By Andrew Burgon /
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October 26, 2013


artqu / 123RF Stock Photo

Master the art of working a room and making inroads into the lives of potential new friends you are interested in.

In this article I’m going to talk about going to an event with the intent of making some new friends. The event was held at a popular pub’s basement. There were at least 60 people from the website I’m a member at. On the first floor of the pub are the regular people who come to the pub. As you walk down into the basement there is an area to your right where you can play a big version of the wooden block game Jenga and there is also a huge Connect 4 game against a wall.

In the middle of the room there are some tables and to the left a bar where drinks are being served. There is also a billiard table in a corner of the room which is fairly quiet. Most of the people are congregated around the bar or where the games are. Let’s use this event to base our discussions on. You walk into the basement and your on Mission Impossible mode. What are you going to do to maximize your chances of walking out of their with the contacts of a few promising friends?

Surveying the Area

I walk into the basement of the pub and survey the area. I note the people I’m interested in talking to and the hot spots. I am also aware of the people I know and whether or not they are talking to someone I don’t know but am interested in. It’s going to be a good night. I see no less than seven opportunities to meet new people that meet my simple criteria.

I walk over to the bar and get a drink. After surveying the area this is always the first thing I do as I find holding a drink in my hand kind of comforting, puts me at ease and helps me blend in.

Getting Others to Introduce Myself

Some of the people my friends are talking to are too young. I’m a mid-aged man and I generally won’t strike up a conversation with someone who is 25 or under. Late twenties is okay but I am mindful I need to make contact with people closer to my age. It so happens one of my friends is talking to someone I’m interested in. I wander on over, make eye contact and smile. I’m hoping for an introduction. It’s great when other people break the ice for you.

My friend introduces me to a long-term expat. These are just the kind of people I like to meet. As an expat it’s common to see people come and go. Years ago I made a big shift socially by focusing on befriending people who are staying a while in the country I live in. If I strike up a conversation with someone and I find they are only staying in the country for 6 more months I will end the conversation early and move on.

I find out that he likes to scuba dive. I highlight the fact that I also like to scuba dive and ask him if he’s done any scuba diving in this country. He has been to two places but they’re not the best dive spots. I haven’t dived here but I draw on two conversations I’ve had previously with my co-workers who go scuba diving every chance they get and tell him of two great dive locations and what they are like. I ask him where he is going to dive next and express an interest in joining him.

Closing a Conversation

I usually finish a conversation with an invite to one of my events and give the person my contact details. If the conversation went well and I feel they are interested in meeting up I’ll just suggest we exchange phone numbers. If it’s someone I feel may not particularly want to meet up with me I’ll just give them my contact details and say something like, “If you have time just text or email me.” I always end a conversation saying the person’s name and express an interest in meeting up again. “Well, it was nice meeting you, George. I hope to see you again.”

Jenga or Billiards

After the conversation I make a choice between billiards and Jenga. The corner with the billiards table is not the happening place so I wander over to the jumbo-sized Jenga game. If there is an opportunity to get actively involved in an event I will do so. The higher the profile the better. It’s all part of my illumination and positioning strategy. There are a whole bunch of people here so Jenga it is. I, unfortunately, suck at Jenga and they come crashing down. I treat the three other players to a beer. Fortunately, it’s happy hour and they aren’t that expensive. I chat with a few others who watch the next game of Jenga.

To Eat or Not to Eat?

I prefer not to eat at an event unless, of course, it’s at a restaurant or the people I’m talking to want to eat. I want to spend my time conversing not munching on food. Unfortunately, I’m hungry. I order something light that won’t take long to eat. Sometimes, I might order a big appetizer plate of chicken wings, potato skins and cheese sticks and invite a few friends to join me.

Positioning Myself  in the Room

I sit myself down at the middle table with my back against the wall. I always avoid facing a wall when I eat. This is for a few reasons. Presence, warmth, familiarity and noticing who arrives at the party. I can see everyone in the room from here and they can see me. One of the things I like to do is smile and nodd to people I know coming into the room. It so happened that during the time I was eating three friends sat down with me for a chat.

Hungry, Lone Wolves

There was a time when I was completely open to befriending anybody. Nowadays, a little chemistry is important to me. Sometimes I will see people that I’m completely disinterested in. It might be someone standing awkwardly alone and it’s obvious they are looking for someone to talk to. They have that ‘hungry’ look.

I was late to the event as it was because of work so I had a strong preference to only talk to people I was interested in. If I’m in my hardcore recruiting mode I will avoid eye contact with them because eye contact and a smile is all the encouragement they need to come over to me and start talking. The conversation may last 20 minutes if I don’t end it sooner and they may end up asking me for my phone number. If they do approach me I will keep the conversation down to 10 minutes if I continue to feel disinterested and excuse myself by saying something like, “Excuse me, there are a few people I want to talk to before they leave.”

Befriending Attractive Women

My circle of friends could certainly do with a few more ladies. There is a nice lady in her early 30s. She is attractive with long blonde hair. Like a lot of other guys I feel my self-esteem drop when I think about walking up to her and introducing myself. I also regret not wearing my wedding ring. In appearance and in subtle word I like to put the opposite sex at ease that I’m not hitting on them. I look for a less anxiety producing way of meeting her. Being bold and brassy is certainly not the only way to meeting new people.

She is chatting with a cluster of friends. I patiently wait for an opening. I’m looking for an opportunity to befriend a more approachable person in her group first and for that tight cluster to change. Sure enough, after 15 minutes it has broken up into two smaller groups and one of the guys has gone to the bar to get a drink. I wander on over and strike up a conversation with him. There is at least a seven minute wait before he gets served so he’s especially open for a conversation.

We make our way back to his group of friends but he introduces me to someone else and the lady I want to meet is in the second group. I was hoping the two groups would naturally become one again but an unexpected opportunity came up. I overheard her asking her friend about book stores. I long ago noted that this question now and then pops up with expats so I have the addresses of several book stores in the drafts folder of my cell phone for just such an occasion.

Her friend only knew the location of two book stores. “Excuse me, I know of a number of book stores.” I proceeded to tell her where three of the best book stores were in the city. I told her I had a copy of the addresses on my cell phone and asked her if she would like me to text it to her. I ended up texting it to a few people in the group.

Alas, it turned out she was a language student and was going back to the states in four months time. Oh well! When you’re not talking to someone try tuning into some of the conversations around you. Since some of these conversations can be heard on the other side of the room that shouldn’t be too hard! You may here a question that no one else in that particular conversation can answer and therein lies an opportunity.

Don’t Be Constantly Engaged in Conversation

I don’t allow myself to be constantly engaged in conversation. Constantly talking to people may discourage some people from coming over to me. A case in point, there was a woman from my country that I wanted to say hello to but she was forever talking with her group of friends. As we were in the vicinity of each other we did a surprising amount of times make eye contact. Alas, there was no smile. Still I will make an attempt to befriend her another time.

I had hoped to find her profile on the website the following night and send her a message but it appears she wasn’t on the RSVP list and as I only have a basic membership I can’t browse through the profiles to try and find her. I could just leave it till the next event.

Alternatively, I could contact the two organizers to find out who she is or I could get a special membership to the website I’m a member of. At every event they take photos and create a photo album on-line. If I do contact the organizers I will check the last few event photo albums and if I find a picture will send it to them.

Taking Notes

Shortly before leaving the event I sit down and make a few quick notes about the people I met. Their interests, what they do and any other information I feel is noteworthy. This is a lifesaver when it comes to remembering someone’s name.

Walking up to the first floor of the pub I see a few opportunities to meet the regulars but I’m with a friend and the pub is closing.

Got something to add? Please share any beneficial thoughts or experiences you have on this matter.

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