You only have 10 seconds to show you're a somebody.
"Just give 'em great posture, a heads-up look, a confident smile, and a direct gaze." It's the ideal image for somebody who is a Somebody. (4)
The Flooding Smile.
Don't flash an immediate smile when you greet someone, as though anyone who walked into your line of sight would be the beneficiary. Instead, look at the other person's face for a second. Pause. Soak in their persona. Then let a big, warm, responsive smile flood over your face and overflow into your eyes. It will engulf the recipient like a warm wave. The split-second delay convinces people your flooding smile is genuine and only for them. (8) A study showed that women who were slower to smile in corporate life were perceived as more credible. A big, warm smile is an asset. But only when it comes a little slower, because then it has more credibility. A slower smile gives your personality a richer, deeper, more sincere cachet. (7)
Pretend your eyes are glued to your conversation partner's with sticky warm taffy. Don't break eye contact even after he or she has finished speaking. When you must look away, do it ever so slowly, reluctantly, stretching the gooey taffy until the tiny string finally breaks.
In addition to awakening feelings of respect and affection, maintaining strong eye contact gives you the impression of being an intelligent and abstract thinker. Increased eye contact encouraged feelings of intimacy. When you look intently at someone, it increases their heartbeat and shoots an adrenalinelike substance gushing through their veins. (11-12)
This brazen technique packs a poerful punch. Watch your target person even when someone else is talking. No matter who is speaking, keep looking at the man or woman you want to impact.
When you use Epoxy Eyes, it sends out signals of interest blended with complete confidence in yourself. Don't overdo it or you could come across as arrogant and brazen. Sometimes using full Epoxy Eyes is too potent, so here is a gentler, yet effective, form. Watch the speaker but let your glance bounce to your target each time the speaker finishes a point. (15)
Hang by Your Teeth.
Visualize a circus iron-jaw bit hanging from the frame of every door you walk through. Take a bite and, with it firmly between your teeth, let it swoop you to the peak of the big top. When you hang by your teeth, every muscle is stretched into perfect posture position.
When a big jolt of happiness hits your heart and you feel like a winner, your head jerks up automatically and you throw your shoulders back. A smile frames your lips and softens your eyes. This is the look winners have constantly. They stand with assurance. They move with confidence. They smile softly with pride. No doubt about it---good posture symbolizes that you are a man or woman who is used to being on top. (17)
The Big-Baby Pivot.
Give everyone you meet The Big-Baby Pivot. The instant the two of you are introduced, reward your new acquaintance. Give teh warm smile, the total-body turn, and teh undivided attention. Give the warm smile, the total-body turn, and the undivided attention you would give a tiny tyke who crawled up to your feet, turned a precious face up to yours, and beamed a big toothless grin. Pivoting 100 percent toward the new person shouts "I think you are very, very special."
Like attorneys deciding whether they want you on their case, everybody you meet makes a subconscious judgement on whether they want you in their lives. They base their verdict greatly on the same signals, your body-language answer to their unspoken question, "Well, how do you like me so far?" (22)
Remember, buried deep inside everyone is a big baby who is rattling the crib, wailing out for recognition of how very special he or she is. The technique reinforces the big baby's suspicion that he or she is, indeed, the center of the universe. (26)
Hello Old Friend.
When meeting someone, imagine he or she is an old friend )an old customer, an old beloved, or someone else you had great affection for). How sad, teh vicisitudes of life tore you two asunder. But, holy mackerel, now the party (the meeting, the convetion) has reunited you with your long-lost old friend! The joyful experience starts a remarkable chain reaction in your body from the subconscious softening of your eyebrows to the positioning of your toes---and everything between.
An added benefit to the Hello Old Friend technique is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you act as though you like someone, you start to really like them. (30)
Han's Horse Sense.
Make it a habit to get on a dual track while talking. Express yourself, but keep a keen eye on how your listener is reacting to what you're saying. Then plan your moves accordingly. If a horse can do it, so can a human. People will say you pick up on everything. You never miss a trick. You've got horse sense.
Watch the Scene Before You Make the Scene.
Rehearse being the Super Somebody you want to be ahead of time. SEE yourself walking around with Hang by Your Teeth posture, shaking hands, smiling the Flooding Smile, and making Sticky Eyes. HEAR yourself cahtting comfortably with everyone. FEEL the pleasure of knowing you are in peak form and everyone is gravitating toward you. VISUALIZE yourself a Super Somebody/ Then it all happens automatically.
How to know what to say after you say "Hi"
Make a Mood Match. Before opening your mouth, take a "voice sample" of your listener to detect his or her state of mind. Take a "psychic photograph" of the expression to see if your listener looks buoyant, bored, or blitzed. If you ever want to bring people around to your thoughts, you must match their mood and voice tone, if only for a moment. You see, small talk is not about facts or words. It's about music, about melody. Small talk is about putting people at ease. It's aboiut making comforting noises together like cats purring, children humming, or groups chanting. You must first match your listener's mood. (48)
Prosaic With Passion. Worried about your first words? Fear not, because 80 percent of your listener's impression has nothing to do with your words anyway. Almost anything you say at first is fine. No matter how prosaic the text, an empathetic mood, a positive demeanor, and passionate delivery make you sound exciting.
Almost anything you say is really OK---as long as it puts people at ease and sounds passionate. How do you put people at ease? By convincing them they are OK and that the two of you are similar. When you do that, you break down walls of fear, suspicion, and mistrust. Anything as long as it is not complaining, rude, or unpleasant. (54)
Always Wear a Whatzit. Whenever you go to a gathering, wear or carry something unusual to give people who find you the delightful stranger across the croweded room an excuse to approach. "Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice your...what IS that?"
Whoozat. Whoozat is the most effective, least used (by non-pliticians) meeting-people device ever contrived. Simply ask the party giver to make the introduction, or pump for a few facts that you can immediately turn into icebreakers.
"Hi, you're Joe Smith, aren't you? Susan was just telling me what a great skier you are. Where do you ski?"
Eavesdrop In. No Whatzit? No host for Whoozat? No problem! Just sidle up behind the swarm of folks you want to infiltrate and open your ears. Wait for any flimsy excuse and jump in with "Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear..."
Never the Naked City. Whenever someone asks you the inevitable, "And where are you from?" never, ever, unfairly challenge their powers of imagination with a one-word answer. Learn some engaging facts about your hometown that conversational partners can comment on. Then, when they say something clever in response to your bait, they think you're a great converationalist.
Never the Naked Job. When asked the inevitable "And what do you do," you may think "I'm an economist/an educator/an engineer" is giving enough information to engender good conversation. However, to one who is not an economist, educator, or an engineer, you might as well be saying "I'm a paleontologist/pscyhoanalyst/pornographer." Flesh it out. Throw out some delicious facts about your job for new acquaintances to munch on. Otherwise, they'll soon excuse themselves, preferring the snacks back at the cheese tray.
Never the Naked Introduction. When introducince people, don't throw out an unbaited hook and stand there grinning like a big clam, leaving the newlymets to flutter their fins and fish for a topic. Bait the conversational hook to get them in the swim of things. Then you're free to stay or float on to the next networking opportunity.
Be a Word Detective. Like a good gumshoe, listen to your conversation partner's everu word for clues to his or her preferred topic. The evidence is bound to slip out. THen spring on that subject like a sleuth on to a slip of the tongue. Like Sherlock Holmes, you have the clue to the subject that's hot for the other person.
The Swiveling Spotlight. When you meet someone, imagine a giant revolving spotlight between you. When you're talking, the spotlight is on you. When the new person is speaking, it's shining on him or her. If you shine it brightly enough, the stranger will be blinded to the fact that you have hardly said a word about yourself. The longer you keep it shining away from you, the more interesting he or she finds you.
Parroting. Never be left speechless again. Like a parrot, simply repeat the last few words your conversation partner says. Simply repeat---or parrot---the last two or three words your companion said, in a sympathetic, questioning tone. That throws the conversational ball right back in his or her court, and then all you need to do is listen.
Encore! The sweetest sound a performer can hear welling up out of the applause is "Encore! Encore! Let's hear it again!" The sweetest sound your conversation partner can hear from your lips when you're talking with a group of people is tell them about the time you..." or "John, I bet everyone would love to hear about the time you caught that thirty-pound striped bass." Whenever you're at a meeting or party with someone important to you, think of some stories he or she told you. Choose an appropriate one from their repertoire that the crowd will enjoy. Then shine the spotlight by requesting a repeat performance.
Ac-cen-tu-ate the Pos-i-tive. When first meeting someone, lock your closet door and save your skeletons for later. You and your new good friend can invite the skeletons out, have a good laugh, and dance over their bones later in the relationship. But now's the time, as teh old song says, to "ac-cen-tu-ate the pos-i-tive and elim-i-nate the neg-a-tive."
The Latest News...Don't Leave Home Without It. The last move to make before leaving for the party---even after you've given yourself final approval in the mirror---is to turn on the radio news or scan your newspaper. Anything that happened today is good material. Knowing the big-deal news of the moment is also a defensive move that rescues you from putting your foot in your mouth by asking what everybody's talking about. Foot-in-mouth is not very tasty in public, especially when it's surrounded by egg-on-face.
The best way to ensure you're conversationally in the swing of things is to listen to a newscast just before you leave. What's happening right now in the world---all the fires, floods, air disasters, toppled governements, and stock market crashes---pulverizes into great conversational foddler, no matter what crowed you're circulating in.
How to talk like a VIP
85 percent of one's success in life is directly due to communication skills.
What Do You Do---NOT! A sure sign you're a Somebody is the conspicuous absence of the question, "What do you do?" Instead, ask, "How do you spend most of your time?"
The Nutshell Resume. Let a different true story about your professional life roll off your tongue for each listener.
To make the most of every encounter, personalize your verbal resume with just as much care as you would your written curriculum vitae. Instead of having one answer to the omnipresent "What do you do?" prepare a dozen or so variations, depending on who's asking. For optimum networking, every time someone asks about your job, give a calculated oral resume in a nutshell. Before you submit your answer, consider what possible interest teh asker could have in you and your work. (102)
Your Personal Thesaurus. Look up some common words you use every day in the thesaurus. Then, like slipping your feet into a new pair of shoes, slip your tongue into a few new words to see how they fit. If you like them, start making permanent replacements. Remember, only fifty words makes the difference between a rich, creative vocabulary and an average, middle-of-the-road one. Substitute a words a day for two months and you'll be in the verbally elite.
Vocabulary is all a matter of familiarity. Use your new favorite words a few times and, just like breaking in a new pair of shoes, you'll be very comfortable wearing your glorious new words. (106)
Kill the Quick "Me, Too!" Whenever you have something in common with someone, the longer you wait to reveal it, the more moved (and impressed) he or she will be. You emerge as a confident big cat, not a lonely little stray, hungry for quick connection with a stranger. P.S.: Don't wait too long to reveal your shared interest or it will seem like you're being tricky.
Comm-YOU-nication. Start every appropriate sentence with you. It immediately grabs your listener's attention. It gets a more positive response because it pushes the pride button and saves them having to translate it into "me" terms. When you sprinkle you as liberally as salt and pepper throughout your conversation, your listeners find it an irresistible spice.
The human brain still immediately, instinctively, and unfailingly translates everything into terms of "How does that affect ME?" (110)
Putting you first gets a much better response, especially when you're asking a favor, because it pushes the asker's pride button. (110)
The Exclusive Smile. If you flash anybody the same smile, like a Confederate dollar, it loses value. When meeting groups of people, grace each with a distinct smile. Let your smiles grow out of the beauty big players find in each new face. If one person in a group is more important to you than the others, reserve an especially big, flooding smile just for him or her.
Don't Touch a Cliche With a Ten-Foot Pole. Be on guard. Don't use any cliches when chatting with big winners. Don't even touch one with a ten-foot pole. Never? Not even when hell freezes over? Not unless you want to sound dumb as a doorknob. Instead of coughing up a cliche, roll your own clever phrases by using the Jawsmith's Jive.
The Jawsmith's Jive. Whether you're standing behind a podium facing thousands or heind the barbecue grill facing your family, you'll move, amuse, and motivate with the same skills. Read speakers' books to cull quotations, pull pearls of wisdom, and get gems to tickle their funny bones. Find a few bon mots to let casually slide off your tongue on chosen occasions. If you want to be notable, dream up a crazy quotable. Make 'em rhyme, make 'em clever, or make 'em funny. Above all, make 'em relevant.
Face-saver lines from Lilly Walters's book What to Say When You're Dying on the Platform. If you tell a joke and no one laughs, try "That joke was designed to get a silent laugh---and it worked." Look through books of similes to enrich your day-to-day conversations. Or books of quotations and humor. (125)
Trash the Teasing. A dead giveaway of a little cat is his or her proclivity to tease. An innocent joke at someone else's expense may get you a cheap laugh. Nevertheless, the big cats will have the last one. Because you'll bang your head against the glass ceiling they construct to keep little cats from stepping on their paws. Never, ever, make a joke at anyone else's expense. You'll wind up paying for it, dearly.
It's the Receiver's Ball. A football player wouldn't last two beats of the time clock if he made blind passes. A pro throws the ball with the receiver always in mind. Before throwing out any news, keep your receiver in mind. Then deliver it with a smile, a sigh, or a sob. Not according to how you feel about the news, but how the receiver will take it.
The Broken Record. Whenever someone persists in questioning you on an unwelcome subject, simply repeat your original response. Use precisely the same words in precisely the same tone of voice. Hearing it again usually quiets them down. If your rude interrogator hangs on like a leech, your next repetition never fails to flick them off.
Big Shots Don't Slobber. People who are VIPs in their own right don't slobber over celebrities. When you are chatting with one, don't compliment her work, simply say how much pleasure or insight it's given you. If you do single out any one of the star's accomplishments, make sure it's a recent one, not a memory that's getting yellow in her scrapbook. If the queen bee has a drone sitting with her, find a way to involve him in the conversation.
Never the Naked Thank You. Never let the phrase "thank you" stand alone. Always make it thank you for something. It not only signals people you're a top communicator, but it encourages them to keep doing nice things for you. Or complimenting you. Or doing business with you. Or loving you. It is very short. It is very sweet. It is very simple. You can use it with everyone in your life. When it becomes instinctive, you'll find yourself using it every day.
How to be an insider in any crowd
Scramble Therapy. Once a month, scramble your life. Do something you'd never dream of doing. Participate in a sport, go to an exhibition, hear a lecture on something totally out of your experience. You get 80 percent of the right lingo and insider questions from just one exposure.
Scramble Therapy is, quite simply, scrambling up your life and participating in an activity you'd never think of indulging in. A sampling gives you 80 percent of the conversation value. You learn the insider's questions to ask. You start using the right terms. You'll never be at a loss again when the subject of extracurricular interest comes up---which it always does.
Learn a Little Jobbledygook. Big winners speak Jobbledygood as a second language. What is Jobbledygook? It's the language of other professions. Why speak it? It makes you sound like an insider. How do you learn it? You'll find no Jobbledygook cassettes in the language section of your bookstore, but the lingo is easy to pick up. Simply ask a friend who speaks the lingo of the crowd you'll be with to teach you a few opening questions. The words are few and the rewards are manifold.
Every job, every sport, every interest has insider opening questions that everybody in the same field asks---and its dumb outsider questions that they never ask each other. All you need are a few insider opening questions to get you started with any group.
Baring Their Hot Button. Before jumping blindly into a bevy of bookbinders or a drove of dentists, find out what the hot issues are in their fields. Every industry has burning concerns the outside world knows little about. Ask your information to bare the industry buzz. Then, to heat the conversation up, push those buttons.
Read Their Rags. Whichever section you usually flip to first in the newspaper, tomorrow DON'T. Turn to any other sectoin, preferably one you hardly ever read. Why? Because it will familiarize you with other worlds so that you can soon discuss anything with anybody, no matter how little you have in common.
Clear "Customs". Before putting one toe on foreign soil, get a book on dos and taboos around the world. Before you shake hands, give a gift, make gestures, or even compliment anyone's possessions, check it out. Your gaffe could gum up entire gig.
Echoing. Echoing is a simple linguistic technique that packs a powerful wallop. Listen to the speaker's arbitrary choice of nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives---and echo them back. Hearing their words come out of your mouth creates subliminal rapport. It makes them feel you share their values, their attitudes, their interests, their experiences.
Employ Empathizers. Don't be an unconscious ummer. Vocalize complete sentences to show your understanding. Dust your dialogue with phrases like "I see what you mean." Sprinkle it with sentimental sparklers like "That's a lovely thing to say." Your empathy impresses your listeners and encourages them to continue.
The Premature We. Create the sensation of intimacy with someone even if you've met just moments before. Scramble the signals in their psyche by skipping conversational levels one and two and cutting right to levels three and four. Elicit intimate feelings by using the magic words we, us, and our.
The word we fosters togetherness. It makes the listener feel connected. It gives a subliminal feeling of "you and me against the cold, cold world." When you prematurely say we or us, even to strangers, it subconsciously brings them closer. It subliminally hints you are already friends. (194)
Instant History. When you meet a stranger you'd like to make less a stranger, search for some special moments you shared during your first encounter. Then find a few words that reprieve the laugh, the warm smile, the good feelings the two of you felt. Now, just like old friends, you have a history together, an Instant History. With anyone you'd like to make part of your personal or professional future, look for special moments together. Then make them a refrain.
How to differentiate the power of praise from the folly of flattery
Grapevine Glory. A compliment one hears is never as exciting as the one he overhears. A pricesless way to praise is not by telephone, not by telegraph, but by tell-a-friend. This way you escape possible suspicion that you are an apple-polishing, bootlicking, egg-sucking, back-scratching sycophant trying to twin brownie points. You also leave recipients with the happy fantasy that you are telling the whole world about their greatness.
Carrier Pigeon Kudos. People immediately grow a beak and metamorphosize themselves into carrier pigeons when there's bad news. (It's called gossip.) Instead, become a carrier of good news and kudos. Whenever you hear something complimentary about someone, fly to them with the compliment. Your fans may not posthumously stuff you and put you on display in a museum like Stumpy Joe. But everyone loves the carrier pigeon of kind thoughts.
Accidental Adulation. Become an undercover complimenter. Stealthily sneak praise into the parenthetical part of your sentence. Just don't try to quiz anyone later on your main point. The joyful jolt of your accidental adulation strikes them temporarily deaf to anything that follows.
Killer Compliment. Whenever you are talking with a stranger you'd like to make part of your professional or personal future, search for one attractive, specific, and unique quality he or she has. At the end of the conversation, look the individual right in the eye. Say his or her name and proceed to curl all ten toes with the Killer Compliment. (Deliver your Killer Compliment to the recipient in private, Make your K.C. credible, Confer only one K.C. per half year on each recipient.)
Little Strokes. Don't make your colleagues, your friends, your loved ones look at you and silently say, "Haven't I been pretty good today?" Let them know how much you appreciate them by caressing them with verbal Little Strokes like "Nice job!" "Well done!" "Cool!"
Little things mean a lot.
The Knee-Jerk "Wow!" Quick as a blink, you must praise people the moment they finish a feat. In a wink, like a knee-jerk reaction say, "You were terrific!" Don't worry that they won't believe you. The euphoria of the moment has a strangely numbing effect on the achiever's objective judgement.
"Are you asking me to lie?" you ask. Yes. Absolutely, positively, resoundingly, YES. This is one of the few moments in life where a lie is condoned by the most ethical individuals. Big winners realize that sensitivity to an insecure performer's ego takes momentary precedence over their deep commitment to the truth. They also know, when sanity returns to the recipient and they suspect they screwed up, it won't matter. He or she will retrospectively appreciate your sensivitity and forgive your compassionate falsehood.
Boomeranging. Just as a boomerang flies right back to the thrower, let compliments boomerang right back to the giver. Like the French, quickly murmur something that expresses "That's very kind of you." ("I like those shoes." --> "Oh I'm so happy you told me. I just got them.)("Oh, that's so nice of you to tell me. I appreciate your positive feedback.")("Oh, you remembered I went to Hawaii! It was great, thanks.")("I appreciate your concern. I feel much better now.")
The Tombstone Game. Ask the important people in your life what they would like engraved on their tombstone. Chisel it into your memory but don't mention it again. Then, when the moment is right to say "I appreciate you" or "I love you," fill the blanks with the very words they gave you weeks earlier. You take people's breath away when you feed their deepest self-image to them in a compliment. "At last," they say to themselves, "someone who loves me for who I truly am."
When it matches what they appreciate or love about themselves, the effect is overpowering.
How to direct dial their hearts
Talking Gestures. Think of yourself as the star of a personal radio drama every time you pick up the phone. If you want to come across as engaging as you are, you must turn your smiles into sound, your nods into noise, and all your gestures into something your listener can hear. You must replace your gestures with talk. Then punch up the whole act 30 percent!
Name shower. People perk up when they hear their own name. Use it more often on the phone than you would in person to keep their attention. Your caller's name re-creates the eye contact, the caress, you might give in person. Saying someone's name repeatedly when face-to-face sounds pandering. But because there is physical distance between you on the phone---sometimes you're a continent apart---you can spray your conversation with it.
"Oh Wow, It's YOU!" Don't answer the phone with an "I'm just sooo happy all the time" attitude. Answer warmly, crisply, and professionally. Then, after you hear who is calling, let a huge smile of happiness engulf your entire face and spill over into your voice. You make your caller feel as though your giant warm fuzzy smile is reserved for him or her.
Salute the Spouse. Whenever you are calling someone's home, always identify and greet the person who answers. Whenever you call someone's office more than once or twice, make friends with the secretary. Anybody who is close enough to answer the phone is close enough to sway the VIP's opinion of you.
What Color Is Your Time? No matter how urgent you think your call, always begin by asking the person about timing. Either use the What Color is Your Time? device or simply ask, "Is this a convenient time for you to talk?" When you ask about timing first, you'll never smash your footprints right in the middle of your telephone partner's sands of time. You'll never get a "No!" just because your timing wasn't right.
How to work a party like a politician works a room.
Munching or Mingling. Politicians want to be eyeball and belly to belly with their constituents. Like any big winner well versed in the science of proxemies and spatial relationships, they know any object except their belt buckle has the effect of a brick wall between two people. Therefore they never hold food or drink at a party. Come to munch or come to mingle. But do not expect to do both. Like a good politician, chow down before you come.
Rubberneck the Room. When you arrive at the gathering, stop dramatically in the doorway. Then s-l-o-w-l-y survey the situation. Let your eyes travel back and forth like a SWAT team ready in a heartbeat to wipe out anything that moves.
Be the Chooser, Not the Choosee. The lifelong friend, the love of your life, or the business contact who will transorm your future may not be at the party. However, someday, somewhere, he or she will be. Make every party a rehearsal for the big event. Do not stand around waiting for the moment when that special person approaches you. You make it happen by exploring every face in the room. No more "ships passing in the night." Capture whatever or whomever you want in your life.
"Hello!... How do you know the hostess?" or "Do you live in the area?"
Come-Hither Hands. Be a human magnet, not a human repellent. WHen standing at a gathering, arrange your body in an open position---especially your arms and hands. People instinctively gravitate toward your open palms and wrists seductively arranged in the "come hither" position. They shy away from knuckles in the "get lost of I'll punch you" position. Use your wrists and palms to say "I have nothing to hide," "I accept you and what you're saying," or "I find you sexy."
Tracking. Like an air-traffic controller, track the tiniest details of your conversation partners' lives. Refer to them in your conversations like a major news story. It creates a powerful sense of intimacy. When you invoke the last major or minor event in anyone's life, it confirms the deep conviction that he or she is an old-style hero around whom the world revolves. And people love you for recognizing their stardom.
Everyone feels like the star of a 1940s movie. Every trivial event in their lives is momentous. "There's ME. Then there's the rest of the world." What someone had for breakfast, what shoes he chose to wear, and whether he took time to floss his teeth can be more important to that particular someone than the fall of faraway nations or the rise of global temperatures.
When you invoke the last major or minor even in anyone's life, it confirms what they've known all along. They're the most important person in the world.
The Business Card Dossier. Right after you've talked to someone at a party, take out your pen. On the back of his or her business card write notes to remind you of hte conversation: his favorite restaurant, sport, movie, or drink; whom she admires, where she grew up, a high school honor; or maybe a joke he told. In your next communication, toss off a reference to the favorite restaurant, sport, movie, drink, hometown, high school honor. Or reprieve the laugh over the great joke.
How to break the most treacherous glass ceiling of all
See No Bloopers, Hear No Bloopers. Cool communicators allow their friends, associates, acquaintances, and loved ones the pleasurable myth of being above commonplace bloopers and embarrassing biological functions. They simply don't notice their comrades' minor spills, slips, fumbles, and faux pas. They obviously ignore raspberries and all otehr signs of human frailty in their fellow mortals. Big winners never gape at another's gaffes.
Lend a Helping Tongue. Whenever someone's story is aborted, let the interruption play itself out. GIve everyone time to dote on the little darling, give their dinner order, or pick up the jagged pieces of china. Then, when the group reassembles, simply say to the person who suffered story-interruptus, "Now please get back to your story." Or better yet, remember where they were and then ask, "So what happened after the..."
My Goof, Your Gain. Whenever you make a boner, make sure your victim benefits. It's not enough to correct your mistake. Ask yourself, "What could I do for this suffering soul so he or she will be delighted I made the flub?" Then do it, fast! In that way, your goof will become your gain.
Lead the Listeners. No matter how prominent the big cat behind the podium is, crouched inside is a little scaredy-cat who is anxious about the crowd's acceptance. Big winners recognize you're a fellow big winner when they see you leading their listeners in a positive reaction. Be the first to applaud or publicly commend the man or woman you agree with (or want favors from).