I was at a lovely wedding last weekend. Yes, the dress was divine. The whole wedding party looked terrific. The reverend running the ceremony was a great public speaker. The Nathaniel Dett Chorale sang (I still have shivers). The food was good.
However, it was lovely because the entire room came together as one community in support of the couple. Now, every wedding is supposed to be about that but not every wedding pulls it off.
At one point, there was a search for some Tylenol - not just at my table - but folks walking from table to table helping the search, not even having met the guest who was hit with a sudden headache.
I saw folks interacting like kids in a sandbox. Everyone was welcome and there was enough cake and merriment to go around. Sometimes no one even exchanged names - the basic grown up fallback. Strangers paid unsolicited compliments and wandered off to their next random flattery moment. By the end of the evening, the room was full of old friends who had, in many instances, just met.
So why does such seamless interaction at an event take on such awkwardness when it’s a work or industry function? We come together for a common cause or theme and we’re there to possibly share a cocktail or understand a strategy. Not as much fun as a wedding but the basic human interaction should be similar.
I think it’s because a work/industry function makes us feel like we have to prove ourselves in some vague way. A social function strips us of titles and focuses on ‘how’ we are vs. ‘who’ we are. Personally, I find the latter function scarier.
Next ‘professional’ function - try breaking the ice as though you were waiting in line at the coffee shop. Comment on the product offered. Comment on the atmosphere. Pay a random compliment. Find the personal connection and enjoy it.