Tips for Reducing Your Social Anxiety and Improving Your First Impression at Parties and Networking Events

I do research, write and consult on body language and first impressions. It is very interesting to me that after many years as a speaker I now have clients that share with me that their employees and or professional association members are fearful of networking. They feel they don’t have the skills to introduce themselves or make small talk and some don’t even value networking.

If you are wondering how to make small talk and network you can hire me as your coach or bring me to your business or association. Our office number is 404-315-7397.

Here are a few tips from my book SNAP Making the Most of First Impressions Body Language and Charisma on how to network.  

Tips for Reducing Your Social Anxiety and Improving Your First Impression at Parties and Networking Events
By Patti Wood MA, CSP and Body Language Expert

Some of you may think of social and networkingand mingling opportunities and jump for joy and some of you may think of punch and cookies and meeting strangers and feel your palms begin to sweat and your throat start to close. Here are fun and helpful tips for feeling more comfortable at your next party so you can change from a wallflower to a “social butterfly.”

1. Look for an Open Person. You have learned in an earlier chapter how to make yourself approachable by having open body language.  You can use that information to look for people who you can easily approach. Search for people who are intently speaking to someone already. Spy the people who have their feet slightly apart a few inches rather than crossed, pressed together, or cowboy show of defensive stance 14 inches apart. It is easier to approach someone who is showing his or her palms as they gesture and is smiling. If you are super shy, you can just go up and stand next to someone who looks open and slowly mirror his posture.  Research says he is likely to start a conversation with you.
2. Go first….you can also introduce yourself. I know I know, you’re thinking, "Patti you are insane.” I hate to talk to people and you want me to initiate a conversation!” “I’d rather stick a fork in my eye.” Put down the fork. Research shows that when you initiate you appear more confident to other people and they immediately feel more at ease. In addition, when they feel at ease, the comfort transfers to you. Remember, two awkward people equal three times the anxiety.
3.  Introduce people to each other. Again, you have something to do, and goodness it takes the pressure off you. You now say the younger person’s name first to introduce them to the older person, say the lower status person’s name first to introduce them to the higher status person. Think bigwig’s name is said last.
4. Ask a question and then relax and listen.  When I was in grad school and teaching at Florida State I tried out for and got a part in a community program.  I almost lost my voice and I learned a lot about listening.  So much anxiety comes from not knowing what to do or how to do it well. I can tell you that the smartest thing you can do at a party is ask a gentle question. It completely takes the talking pressure off you. You don’t have to be witty and urbane to be good listeners. And if “The Seven Habits of highly successful people” is right, everybody loves a good listener. If asking questions seems to be as difficult for you as defusing and atomic bomb, click to my book “Going UP!” The book gives pages of questions you can use to start a conversation.
5. Nod your head. I give simple listening body language cues in my linked article. Here is one of my favorites to teach men. Nod your head. Women love it. Men typically only nod their heads when they agree, woman nod to show they are listening. Guys, if you nod your head a lot she will love you. Beware of nodding your head at your female boss at the office.  Power people love it when you nod your head too, but your boss might think you love them so much you are willing for them to nominate you for the office, “recycling waste committee for 2009.”

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at