How I prepped to schmooze at work

You know when you’re in a group of new people and all of a sudden you are asked to introduce yourself and in that very moment it seems you forgot your own name and anything about yourself, let alone anything remotely interesting? I always hated getting caught off guard like that, knowing full well I could do better than, ‘My name is Rachel and I like cupcakes.”

After one particular event, one where I gave an embarrassing demonstration of sleep deprivation and not thinking quickly enough on my feet, I went back to my desk and typed up a few things to keep handy for the future.

1. My official elevator speech. What I did in a nutshell. I had two versions; an internal version that I would share with people I met as I traveled for work and a version I would share with people outside of the company I worked for. They were brief and kick ass.

2. Two truths and a lie. For some reason, this seemed to be a popular ice breaker game in meetings I went to and I found that I could recycle my three things pretty easily.

3. A list of 3-5 things that were interesting about me. These rotated over time. Things about me that were quirky yet charming. Personal, yet professional. This also helped when I needed a smalltalk crutch to lean on. You know, when people say something like, “Tell me more about yourself!” over dinner.

4. A shortlist of conversation starters. Because burying your face in your phone to escape an awkward work-social interaction should be reserved for true moments of desperation only. This also applies to faking phone calls. The schmooze factor gets easier with practice and, in my experience, with a few go-to questions up your sleeve.

Of course, not everyone needs to resort to this kind of neurotic prep work, but it was something that allowed me to worry less and present the most confident version of myself. A manager once told me the best way to do well is to know the material inside-out and to speak with authority. Over time, I learned that “the material” included more than the important work I was doing – the material was also the person behind it, and sometimes, the cupcakes, too.

^^^ Me & Harper in 2012, Dallas.
(I ate two more in my hotel room later that night.)

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