9 Ways to Work a Room

How To Party for Charity

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With every season comes a new influx of swanky charity event invitations, from polo tents and cocktail parties to silent auctions and first-class dinners. What's a girl who's used to laidback barbecues and chill happy hours to do? Splurge at least once on a VIP ticket for a good cause — karma will reward you with some great networking, guilt-free partying, and a dress to impress. Peg Samuel, author of How to Be a Social Diva, gives us the ultimate cheat sheet.

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DRESSING

· If the invitation leaves you unsure about the proper attire, imagine the wardrobe of a classic Hollywood starlet (think 1940s or 1950s, like Sophia Loren or Audrey Hepburn), and emulate that style icon for the night.

· At less formal charitable functions, we suggest dressing a touch above the required dress code.

WORKING THE ROOM

· Tip 1: Memorize in advance the names of key players in the organization who you wish to meet. They should be listed on the organization's website.

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· Tip 2: Handshakes are the typical greeting at these events, so if you're carrying anything around with you (i.e. your clutch or glass of wine), always hold it in your left hand. This will keep your right hand free for handshaking, and eliminates the need to fumble around with your things before you can extend your hand to meet a new acquaintance.

· Tip 3: Always introduce yourself to everyone at your table before you sit down. Not only does this make you appear genuine and gracious, it always allows you to avoid those awkward mid-conversation introductions that sometimes occur after you've been chatting with someone for a while.

· Helpful hints: Stay away from hors d'oeuvres that are potentially drippy or can't be eaten in one bite. You don't want to be remembered as the girl who had a dribble of mayonnaise on her chin, right?

NETWORKING

Fundraisers and benefits are seriously great opportunities to not only support a worthy cause, but also to expand your ever-growing list of contacts. There will be many important individuals sharing the room with you. However, your number one reason for attendance is to cheer on the organization, not yourself. If you forget this golden rule, networking during a charitable function can come off as rude and inappropriate.

· Tip 1: Do your homework! Know your facts about the organization's mission. If you meet one of the head honchos but are unable to talk about the reason for your attendance, it not only looks shallow, but virtually eliminates any possibility of befriending that person on a personal or business level.

· Tip 2: Find out what the key players bring to the table. This will give you plenty of conversational ammunition when you are introduced to them, and the longer the exchange continues, the better chance you have of working together on a project.

· Tip 3: Take your business cards, but know when to bring them out. If someone asks you for a card, it is OK to hand one over. If you initiate the business card exchange, always relate it to the conversation. You can say, "Oh, really? I would love to be involved in promoting the event, if you could use my help. May I give you my card so that we can touch base about this sometime soon?"

For charity event listings on Marie Claire's New York City turf, check out GuestofaGuest.com or SocialDiary.com. Share your favorite social directories from other cities in the comments!

Keep reading for more advice on How To Work a Room Like a Royal Pro.

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