Do cocktail parties and company mixers make you feel like a shy teenager all over again? Learn how to make a good impression and keep the attention of your conversation partner by following these tips from acting coach Ron Burrus of the legendary Stella Adler Studio of Acting, in New York City and Los Angeles.

By Ron Burrus
Updated May 05, 2009
Illustration of a woman tongue-tied
Credit: Greg Clarke
  • Walk with purpose. A shuffling stride and droopy shoulders scream, “I’m terrified,” from 100 yards away.
  • Shake hands properly. Nothing says “wimp” like limp fingers. Bonus points for good eye contact.
  • Be aware of your habits. Using your hands for emphasis is great; swinging them around is distracting and could have disastrous results at a crowded cocktail party. And watch the ums. Burrus suggests having a good friend critique you: “He can tell you what works and what you need to change.”
  • Speak clearly. Listening to someone mumble his or her way through a story takes far too much effort. Define your diction with an Eliza Doolittle–esque trick that actors have relied on for years: speaking with a cork between your teeth. “Do it while you’re driving and repeat what’s being said on the radio,” says Burrus. “Start with two or three minutes and work up to 10. People will notice the difference.”
  • Think outside yourself. Says Burrus: “Putting all your energy into the person you’re talking to forces you to focus on him or her―not you. Your body language will relax immediately.”