In the 1950’s, published as an article in The Economist (which grew into a book called “Parkinson’s Law”), C. Northcote Parkinson wrote about his observations of people and dubbed the consistent, predictable actions as Parkinson’s Law. The ‘Cocktail Formula’ is about people in a social setting. Relative importance of the attendees can be gleaned by watching them move about the room.
Here’s some of the results from a social gathering:
- There is a clockwise flow of people around the room – when entering through the doorway, folks jump into the current by going to their left
- This current flow is well away from the walls, but does not extend into the center of the room
- The “most important” people will move with the flow until they reach the far right of the room (relative to the doorway) and set up camp there without moving from the current (so the flow now goes to both sides of them)
o All along the walls are lengthy deep conversations by the “nobodies”
o Pressing back into the corners of the room are the “timid and feeble”
o In the center of the room are the “eccentric & silly”
o The “most important” people arrive at the event once enough people are present to observe their arrival and leave early for the same effect.
Have some fun next time you are at a cocktail party and check it out.
What does this have to do with us and how can we benefit from it? Using a networking meeting (without a specific program or presentation) as an example, here’s some thoughts:
- Arrival: Never come early (unless you are supporting the host); get there after the start time when a number of others are already present – then you have some folks to chat up (and you do not seem compulsive or needy)
- Circulation: Have a good balance between moving around and staying in place. When you are planted for a long time, you appear to be ‘holding court’; but if you are constantly on the move, folks wanting to speak with you can’t find you easily
- Departure: Don’t be the one turning out the lights (again – unless you are supporting the host) – leave while there are folks still around but the crowd is thinning. Leave too late and you look like you have nothing to so; leave too early and you look like a mercenary just working a room.
Do you see how you can apply these observations ‘read’ others?
Does this information have value?
Will its awareness help you avoid unintended ‘action’ communications?