It can be very intimidating to go to a party when you only know one or two people. You might feel awkward and tempted to leave early. I know I have. But if you bail, you’ll miss the chance to meet new friends and have a good time.
Here are some strategies to have a great time at a party, even if you hardly know anyone there.
1. Get there on time
I find it much easier to mingle with just two or three people than with a room full of people I don’t know. So, I like to arrive early (also known as “on time”), before most of the guests get there. When you arrive early you also get to meet the host, which can be very helpful in meeting more people.
I realize that arriving on time can be awkward in its own way, but it’s much better than arriving at a crowded party and trying to break into a bunch of people who all seem to be having fun without you.
Something to ponder: people arriving at a party have lower social proof than people already at the party, all other things being equal.
2. Help the host
If you feel awkward standing around alone, then help serve food/drinks, collect gifts, greet, or take jackets. My favorite thing to do at a BBQ is to man the grill, but there are many other ways you can avoid being a wallflower. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have someone man the entrance if the party has a complicated ingress (i.e., like an apartment buzzer). As an added bonus, you get to meet everyone who arrives! But, don’t do this for the whole party!
3. Be the official event photographer, DJ, bartender, or musician.
Expanding on the idea of helping the host, check with them beforehand to see if they want an official volunteer photographer, DJ, or bartender at the event. I personally like being the photographer, but I’ve also served as DJ. It can spur conversation and can be a good way to make contacts, because folks always want the pictures! In general, I much prefer having a job to standing around awkwardly not talking to anyone.
4. Bring something awesome to eat or drink
You can make friends quickly by bringing something amazing to eat or drink. Everyone will ask, “who brought that?” If you are a skilled cook, put those skills to work for you! Or, if you know a lot about good beer or whiskey or whatever, bring something rare and good.
5. Bring or wear a conversation piece
I still have the first cellphone that I bought; it’s from the 1990s and is HUGE and hilarious. I brought it to a gathering once and everyone got a huge kick out of it.
If you come directly from work, go in your work clothes. If you have an interesting job, it will give people something to talk about.
Think of a conversation piece that you can bring or wear to get the ball rolling.
6. Bring a game
If you don’t like making small talk (and many introverted people don’t), bring a game. You might find some like-minded people who are in the same boat and would like to play. You might want to check with the host first, though.
7. Use this opener: “how do you know the host?”
This won’t work if everyone has the same connection to the host (i.e., work party), but if the party is mixed with random people, then it can be a great opener because it’s not a “yes” or “no” question. If you get lucky, you might get an amusing story out of it.
8. Rehearse an interesting/funny/self-deprecating story about yourself
People like humility. Think of a time when you did something kind of stupid or funny and prepare to tell it when there’s a lull in the conversation.
A variation of this is to do something interesting right before the party so you have something to talk about, i.e., “I just came from the new Monet exhibit at the museum!”
9. Find other “outsiders” to hang with
Odds are, you’re not the only one who is feeling left out and awkward at the party. Maybe most of the people might know each other from work, except for a few of you. So look for the people who don’t work for that company. You’ll have something to bond over.
10. Fake it and act like you belong
If you don’t know many people at the party, then they probably don’t know anything about you either. As far as they are concerned, you might be the best friend of the host who has known them since the first grade. This takes some gumption, but if you simply act like you belong, you’ll be better off than shrinking in the corner by yourself. I know this is not easy at first, but practice makes perfect!
I hope you find these tips helpful! Do you have any other ideas? I’d love to hear them! Please comment below. – Brian