How to Work A Room

How to Work A Room, The Ultimate Guide to Making Lasting Connections in Person and Online, by Susan Roane, William Morrow, 2014

The Dedication alone was enough to make The Mill Girl read on:

          “…To Ida B. Harvey, my ‘assistant mother,’ who taught me that ‘beauty is only skin deep, but ugly… is to the bone.’”  Hah!

But seriously folks, I wish I had had this book when I started in consulting – Roane’s clever advice would have sped up the experiential learning process – how to handle business/social opportunities, how to read your audience, when to walk and not feel rejected, and especially, how to remove the Five Roadblocks, thereby ignoring your mother’s endless warnings:

1.     Roadblock #1 “Don’t Talk to Strangers”

2.    Roadblock  #2 “ Wait to be Properly Introduced” (The Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome)

3.    Roadblock #3 “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait” (The Prom King/Queen Complex)

4.    Roadblock #4 “Better Safe Than Sorry” (Risking Rejection)


Roane quickly eases us into the remedy for each of these Roadblocks, starting with the conversation-killer “Don’t Talk to Strangers.”  In the case of this first dictum, she answers, “Redefine The Term Stranger!”  Hah!  Nothing like having a Yiddish godmother to help us through these social challenges! And preparation is key – “Take five minutes to think about what you have in common with people at an event before you get there.”  She shares a story to illustrate:

          The best advice that I share with clients and audiences came from a gentleman farmer who called into an NPR radio station during an interview.  He said that when he was growing up and went into town for dances, they had a saying: ‘The roof is the introduction.’  It makes sense.  You already have something in common with the other people in the room, under the same roof:  the purpose of the event, the traffic, the parking and the food, just to name a few.

This book is filled with other friendly smart tips to better work a room or a life, like:

 Good things don’t come to those who wait,

  Good things come to those who initiate!

You may be shy, you may not have ever wanted to attend tonight’s networking soiree, or you may just wonder if any good can come from this particular contact, but Susan Roane has an answer for each of these doubts, either in the fun readable chapters, on her website, or in the boxed advice graphics.                                                                                                              

Mill Girl Verdict?  A great classic updated for digital.