The Art of Shmoozing

Everybody has a different style of meeting people. Important people. The kind of people you wouldn’t normally go up and meet, except for the fact that in this one cocktail party instance, they can help you. Help advance your career. Help publicize your book. Help you meet the person you really need to talk to.

Every BEA the Northern California Book Publicist and Marketing Association hosts a publicity tea. They invite special media profiles for us book publicists to meet and greet. Usually, it’s a great cocktail party where sometimes the guests show, and sometimes they don’t. This year, it was at the Carnegie Club. Special guests included TIME’s Galley Girl publishing reporter, Andrea Sachs and Good Morning America producer, Patty Neger, among others.

This year I took my two yellow drink tickets and headed to the bar to chat with fellow Wild Writing Woman, Lynn Ferrin. It was fun and comfortable to have a drink with Lynn and just gabb. But we were there for a reason, didn’t pay our $35 for nothing, and I remembered pretty quickly when Linda came up and excitedly asked me to come with her to go meet the guests.

My grandfather taught me to meet people with a firm handshake, and it has become a trademark for me in making a first impression. It’s how I got my intern with Travelers’ Tales. Ask Larry, he loves to tell that story. But there was something about this cocktail party that made me feel like rushing up to the VIPs and thrusting my hand in theirs wasn’t the right thing to do. Instead I took a few post cards and held them at my side while Linda and I approached the circle around Andrea. I was cautious, waiting my turn, but Linda had the gumption to get us right in there. And it worked.




With Patty, I spoke to her assisant while Linda went straight for her business card. We were a good team. A good combo of respecting space and being assertive. Now the game is to follow up—with both. Assistants can often be the ticket to getting to the overly busy big shot.

Not everyone can have a wingman, and I don’t have an opinion on which way is right or wrong–going in, or circling about–but I think the common denominator is that you have to make an effort. Pretty fundamental, but you’d be surprised how hard it is for some people cross the room and introduce themselves.

When you’re at a cocktail party and you know that there’s someone in the room you want to meet, don’t leave without getting that handshake. Sure it can be tough when others are around and doing the same thing, but be creative. Get in the arena, make the introduction and let the conversation take course. Often the VIPS want to talk about them, not you. That’s ok. It’s better to make contact, than an actual pitch first off. They might tune out the pitch, but they’re not going to forget if you make them laugh or listened to their vent.

Good luck.