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August 1, 2005

How to Work a Room Like a (Royal) Pro

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After 25 years in the public eye, Sarah Ferguson, the exuberant Duchess of York, is a meet-and-greet (and charm) expert. Here, her insta-success tips.

Fergie's dinner-party tip: The perfect time to end one chat and start another with someone else is between courses.

1. DON'T BE CHEEKY
Go for a handshake first, and let the other person lean in for a kiss. Americans kiss once, and in parts of Europe, it's two or three. So you never get it right! I once said to Diana, "You're always getting it perfect," and she said, "I promise you, I have no idea who is who. You just have to go with it."

2. FIND A KIND FACE
Watch the room for a minute. Do not go toward seven men in suits talking sports, because you'll probably be rejected. Search for someone who's got a kind look. Say, "Hello, I don't know anyone here. Can I get a bit of help? You've got a lovely face." Immediately, the person is going to want to help you.

3. REMEMBER NAMES
After I introduce myself, I immediately note something about that person. It might be a brooch, or a tie. That way, when I come around the room an hour later, I'll remember, "Jimmy...green tie."

4. MIX AND MINGLE
I make an effort to connect with each person: three to five minutes for friends, 10 minutes with VIPs (hosts, officials, honorees, etc.). It helps if there are clusters of people, so I can drop in and out, enabling me to meet more guests.

5. FIB YOUR WAY OUT
If someone's droning on and on, you should say something like, "Sorry to interrupt you, but you know, I just realized the time. I'll be back in a second." You say it in such a lovely way that they honestly think you are coming back.

6. DON'T CRY OVER SPILLED WINE
Address it immediately with the host. Apologize and say, "There are two solutions: Send me the cleaning bill, or we'll clean it up now." Don't try to be brave or funny. "Surrender and smile" is one of my favorite expressions.

7. SKIP THE BUBBLY
Champagne gives you bad, acidic breath. Don't eat the shrimp, either, because then you'll have champagne and shrimp breath! And avoid garlic — it's deeply unfriendly.

8. CHAT UP CELEBS
Approach them! Immediately, pay them a compliment. Then ask, "Do you know the host well?" Always get them to speak about themselves — everyone loves to do that.

9. NEVER DIS SUITORS ON THE SPOT
Say, "Could you ring me tomorrow? I don't have my diary with me." It is much better to let someone down the next day, because you've got to spend the next two hours with him in the room. But when he rings, don't not take the call! Deal with it; otherwise he's going to call again.


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