How to meet people and make friends at a party
December 31, 2006 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to show up at a new year's eve party by myself. It'll be a huge party, and I will only know one person, who'll probably be too busy to talk to me all night.

I have no problem finding and dating women. I think I'm good looking, and I'm relatively good with women. However, at this party I'm mostly just interested in getting to know people and possibly making friends. I'm not interested in hooking up.

So, I don't need pickup lines or ways to meet girls. I just need ways to start conversations with strangers (men and women), in hope of making friends or just having interesting discussions.

And I need that without looking weird (and also without drinking heavily). I feel weird enough just by showing up alone. How do I avoid sitting/standing by myself, and what's the best way to meet new people. The people there will probably be among friends.
posted by peteok to Human Relations (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I usually try to find someone else who's standing around by themselves and strike up a conversation. They're usually pretty receptive.

Alternatively, try to situate yourself near the food. Then you have a natural topic of conversation for anyone who drops by. "Try the dip, it's really great."
posted by christinetheslp at 7:06 AM on December 31, 2006

"so who do you know here?"
posted by modernnomad at 7:12 AM on December 31, 2006

People like to talk about themselves. Simply ask about their job, who they know at the party, their plans for next year, anything. They'll start talking and they'll think you are a great conversationalist, even though you may have hardly said a word.
posted by COD at 7:16 AM on December 31, 2006

Second modernnomad and COD (people love to talk about themselves).
posted by inigo2 at 7:33 AM on December 31, 2006

Might the one person you know be able to point you to a few people you'd have some things in common with? A mutual friend can be a good conversation starter.

At bigger parties I've found there's usually at least one larger group having a conversation; you can insert yourself into those pretty easily.

And COD's advice is great: get people talking about themselves.

Have fun tonight!
posted by AV at 7:38 AM on December 31, 2006

you need a t-shirt that says "I'm the new guy."

or a sticker. go to staples, get a "hello, my name is..." sticker and write "the new guy" onto it. all you need is a way to start a conversation and that's one...
posted by krautland at 7:49 AM on December 31, 2006

Aye, a conversation on how much of a dick you are.

Don't get a t-shirt or sticker. Get drunk and let nature take its course.
posted by the cuban at 8:01 AM on December 31, 2006

Not that you need advice, but in these settings, I resign myself to the possibility that I won't meet anyone interesting and am content to smile and observe. Usually there's one or two people that can be coaxed into interaction. (My social life of the last 4 years has been to be inserted into large gatherings of law students, with whom I had little in common.)

One useful technique I sometimes use to to get uber gregarious, making sure the rest of the folks there mix and meet. It's a fun play, sometimes, and has the double effect of making you a networker while giving you practice in such uncertain settings. They come up all the time.

Have fun! Smile a lot, and let the unsuccessful interactions roll off your back. Don't be tempted to take anything personally.
posted by FauxScot at 8:15 AM on December 31, 2006

I'm with the cuban. Just get drunk.
posted by Orange Goblin at 8:31 AM on December 31, 2006

Is there going to be a liquor cabinet, keg, or some variation thereof? If so, take serving the alcohol upon yourself for a bit. I've always had a high success rate of people being, "DUDE, YOU'RE THE MANNNNNNNNNNN!!!" with this tactic and allows an easy way to get involved in conversations.
posted by jmd82 at 8:33 AM on December 31, 2006

I just need ways to start conversations with strangers (men and women), in hope of making friends or just having interesting discussions.

Meet the host, get their name. Then when you want to strike up a conversation, just ask someone, "So, how do you know HostName?"

"So, how do you know HostName?"
"We work together."
"Cool. Is it a fun place to work?"

Voila. Conversation.
posted by frogan at 9:23 AM on December 31, 2006

1. Have a few conversation starters, like those mentioned above (How do you know Hostname?, Try the dip)

2. Have a few interesting things about yourself to talk about. When you are with a group of people who already know each other, a little more of the burden is on you to share more of yourself. Don't dominate the conversation, just be prepared. "I am taking sailing lessons right now and it's really interesting because..." "I had the oddest thing happen to me at work yesterday..."

3. Being the bartender is a *great* way to meet people and have fun.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:39 AM on December 31, 2006

So not only did peteok say he didn't want to drink heavily, but "getting drunk and letting nature take its course" could easily mean barfing and passing out in front of everyone or getting in a fight. We're not all the life-of-the-party happy-drunks.

At a big party, I think it's often okay to just walk up and join 3 other people who are standing and talking. Not all clusters of people at a big loud party are intimate friends who want some privacy to themselves. You can always walk up, stand for a second, see what they're talking about, and contribute something if you have it. If you don't, move on. Or perhaps just introduce yourself. Who knows, they may introduce themselves to you spontaneously.

In such a setting, it's okay to strike up a conversation with someone about anything. But keep it specific. Don't make "small talk" about the weather. Say, "hey those are great shoes, where'd you get them?" or "so what did you do last new year's?" or "you remind me of someone I used to know." The conversation points don't have to be brilliant, just open, with the potential to go somewhere.

Don't be afraid to use your skills with women to strike up conversations. It's not like there's a "flirting track" and a "friendship track" you have to pick between right away.

It might come across as dorky to some, but almost as soon as a sentence or two has passed between you, hold out your hand and tell them your name. It's almost always a classy thing to do anyway, and it might open the interaction to get a little deeper or more personal, especially if you follow it up with "who do you know here?"

posted by scarabic at 10:03 AM on December 31, 2006

The bartender idea is a great one.

Another good idea is to bring a guitar and sit on the stairs singing some songs you wrote yourself. Actually, I'm kidding. This is a terrible idea.

I'm not really on board with the "hi my name is" sticker/shirt idea, but a good way to get people to come up to you is to wear something interesting. Not obnoxious or ridiculous -- maybe a sort-of-witty shirt, or some funky sneakers. I have a pair of sky-blue corduroy pants I get compliments on all the time.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:11 AM on December 31, 2006

It just struck me that my attempts at humor may have been confusing. To clarify: I really do think the bartender idea is a good one. The guitar thing was just a funny.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:13 AM on December 31, 2006

Bring up the topic of New Year's Resolutions... that should be good for openings (and some closings).
posted by Operation Afterglow at 10:35 AM on December 31, 2006

Speaking as an introvert, I know from firsthand experience that too much emphasis on opening conversations perfectly becomes an excuse for just not saying anything. Extroverts would probably find this incomprehensible, but believe me, I understand it.

It really doesn't matter. Just start talking and know that the first 30 seconds or so will be awkward. Pretty soon you'll find something to latch on to, you'll get talking and you'll forget all about the beginning of the conversation.

Besides, super-perfect converstion starters are, paradoxically, deadening to good conversation. Just jump in and go.
posted by argybarg at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2006

Get drunk and let nature take its course.

I couldn't disagree more. I'm usually uncomfortable and quiet at large social gatherings, and getting intoxicated* only makes me more quiet and unsociable.

* Unless it involves Red Bull. Can't shut me up if I mix with that!
posted by sublivious at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2006

Well, the best way to meet new people is to meet new women. I can't understand where you could have possibly gotten the idea that this wasn't the case. Women are the glue that hold such parties (and societies and the universe) together: they form "cooperative groups" (that's an anthro term!) and these groups draw men and this is what's technically defined as the "party." Identify an attractive woman and strike up a conversation with her. Let her know you think she's awesome. It's of course pretty easy to pick up women on New Year's Eve: a few questions about the previous year, some thoughts about her plans for the future, an appeal to her desire to try new things and a fresh start, and a few drinks and a kiss for good luck is all it takes. Even if you're not interested, pretend to be and before no time she'll be parading you before her friends and even her boyfriend. And I'll second scarabic on the touching. Touching people -- whether it's hand shaking or cheeck pecking -- is easily the most efficient way to put people at ease and establish a bond.

If you can't find any women by themselves (the annoying condition where everybody sticks to everybody else, a herd instinct found in college kids and people not from the city) then you should just sit back and enjoy the free alcohol and try to have a good time. If you're having fun on your own it's usually only a matter of time before others pick up on the vibe and join in.

I'd also recommend overdressing for the event. If everybody else is dressed in the bland Gap-hipster-quasi-grunge-casual chic you will definitely stand out in a slick new suit and tie. This will send a signal to others (particularly woman) that you are something new and somebody special.
posted by nixerman at 11:42 AM on December 31, 2006

I don't know if this works as well for guys, but I ALWAYS meet random people in the line for the bathroom. It is pretty easy if you start with something like "strong drinks tonight, huh?" or "man, this line is long" -- it usually gets you somewhere, and then you can say hi when you run into that person later on in the evening and hope he'll introduce you to the people he's talking to.
posted by echo0720 at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2006

Bring drugs. Then offer them to people you'd like to meet.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:45 PM on December 31, 2006

Bringing something special to share can be helpful; a nice bottle of single malt scotch, chocolate-chip cookies you baked (or not), party favors- anything that you can personally pass around is perfect. I've also met very cool people when they have just walked up to the small group I'd been talking with and said: "hi, I'm peteok. Mind if I join you?" It's kind of a scary thing for me personally to do, but I was impressed that these other folks did. I'd say this tactic is generally best received by groups of mixed gender; a gaggle of chicks might just roll their eyes. You know how girls are. I also second the notion of dressing up just a bit.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:57 PM on December 31, 2006

Oh, I forgot- another personal tactic of mine is to hang out in the kitchen ( if it's a house party) helping out by prepping food, making drinks, or doing dishes. This will endear you to your hosts, give you a way to start conversations, and oftentimes put you in the center of all the action, at least the sort of action where conversation can still be had.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:10 PM on December 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

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