As the world prepares to bid farewell to 2011, many folks are busy planning how they’re going to usher in 2012.
Although New Year’s Eve parties are meant to be fun, they aren’t for everyone. Large social gatherings can be stressful for some people.
If you’re in that number, you could send your regrets or show up and hide in the corner while pretending to text all night. Or you could go the other way and dazzle the guests with your wit and charm. Here are a few helpful hints for getting your new year started on the right track:
“Wear something festive: A colorful tie, an interesting pin or fashionable shoes are great conversation starters,” said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and author of “Poised For Success.”
“People tend to gravitate toward people who stand out or look interesting.”
Selecting brightly colored attire can help draw others to you like a moth to a flame. And if folks are coming to you, half the “how to mingle” battle is already won.
Some experts say a flashy dress or low neckline may not be appropriate for an office or family gathering. But if it’s a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-style cocktail party with zany music or your old college roommate’s glam late-night soiree, a sexy sparkling dress or a tangerine tie on a black button-down shirt is just the thing.
Have a list of easy questions in mind as conversation-starters: “How’s it going? Who do you know here? How did you get here?”
Strike up a conversation with the party chameleons. They’re the ones who seem to be blending in with the wallpaper and thus ignored by everyone else. Believe it or not, they’ll be easy to spot. More than likely, you’ll find them standing awkwardly in a corner.
It’s a win-win situation. They’ll be happy for the interaction and you’ll be able to test your social butterfly wings.
Jokes can work, too, but tread lightly. It’s a thin line between funny and offensive. Know your audience. A safe bet is to only pull out your G-rated, grandmother approved, material.
You could also brush up on current events, but keep the topics light. The name of the game is fun and interesting conversations, not controversy. Everything doesn’t have to be a 30-minute political debate, even if you’re in a room of fulltime politicians. There’s a time and place for everything.
Introductions and compliments
“Walk around, get a solid idea of who’s in the house and sidle right up to someone who seems interesting — maybe they’re wearing a bright sweater, or a fun hat — and give them a compliment,” said Sian-Pierre Regis, founder of the Swagger: New York style website. “Then introduce yourself.”
Another tip: Introduce people to each other.
“There are always people who don’t know each other at holiday parties, and if you can help them connect with new friends, they will remember you for it,” said Meghan Keane, editorial director of B5Media, a lifestyle blog network for women.
Be the initiator
Someone’s got to break in the dance floor, so why not be that someone?
Don’t be afraid to pull out your signature dance move. Be it the “Robot,” the “Sprinkler” or the “Hustle.” Don’t just stand there. Bust a move.
As long as you don’t humiliate yourself, it’s OK to be a little kooky.
If the party really needs help getting started, crank up a conga line. Not only can you meet new people that way, you can also take the credit for breaking the ice in the room.
Lend a hand
Volunteer to help out the hosts. Help greet guests, pour drinks or pass around snacks.
Take note of the interesting people and find them again later.
“Give them your Mona Lisa smile,” said Suzanne Zazulak Pedro, an executive coach and founder of The Protocol Praxis.
Not a fake Pan Am stewardess smile, as she put it, but a close-lipped half-smile, “like you have a secret. It will not only make people wonder what you are up to, but it will also help initiate conversations.”
Eye contact and nodding during conversation promotes a positive connection, too.
Be a good guest
If there’s a magic show, a Secret Santa activity, a singalong or a game, enthusiastically join in and encourage others to join you.
“Know when to go,” advises Jodi R.R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Marblehead, Mass.
“Don’t wait for a conversation to wind its way to an awkward pause or for the party to draw down to the last stragglers. As things begin to slow, wish everyone a happy holiday and either move on to the next person or the next party.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.