How To Work A Room Like Joe Biden

One area this blog explores is the subtle things successful people do differently than the rest. (When I speak of success, I mean achievement in any field, and by any measure — doesn’t just mean financial success.)

Have you ever watched a politician or high-power executive work a room, and wonder what these “successful” people say (or do) differently than you?

A case-study is Joe Biden, who many say is extremely personable, and great at making people quickly feel comfortable. I can’t comment from personal experience what methods he uses to accomplish this, but I came across a video of Joe working the room at last week’s Senate swearing in ceremony, which gives some insight into his tactics.  (By the way, I’m equally interested in how Reagan worked a room, so please don’t read anything into the subject of this commentary.)

Here are a few things I notice about how he works a room:

1. Simple and direct greeting: With a smile, eye contact, and handshake, his opening line seems to be “Hey [name], I’m Joe Biden.

Take-away: Joe smiles a lot, especially during his greeting.  Perhaps this is why people feel at ease.

2. Plenty of compliments: Joe seems to alternate and riff on a few standard lines, including:

  • “You’ve got a million dollar smile ” (which he seems to apply to both men and women)
  • “You’ve got a smile that lights up the room” (or in one variation he says “the chamber”)
  • “You’ve got beautiful eyes” (I’d probably feel awkward saying this to a dude)
  • “As they say in southern Delaware, you’ve done good …”
  • “Other than my mother, this is the finest lady I’ve ever known.” (that’s a good one!)
  • “You married up son!”

While many of these lines are applied to both men and women, he seems particularly sensitive towards older moms (however, that may be a result of how the clip was edited).

Take-away: The number of compliments he gives is significantly higher than what I feel comfortable doing, so this may be one reason he’s known for the way he works a room.

3. Physical approach: He definitely makes a lot of physical contact. He touches, moves into people’s personal space, and doesn’t seem awkward in doing so. He makes it a point of stating that he wants certain people next to him.

Take-away: He seems extremely physical; what strikes me is that he interacts with people as if they’re close family members, not strangers.

Watch the video (2:36).  What do you think about how Joe works a room?  Is he creepy, or just confident?

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About David Rosendahl
Husband, father, co-founder of MindFireInc, two-time Inc500 software company. I love building things.

4 Responses to How To Work A Room Like Joe Biden

  1. Great observation from Alan Irons via Facebook:

    “Another thing is he seems to “disarm” people with his quirky comments. (“Spread your leg you’re going to be frisked” got an obvious big smile, laughing reaction.) Interesting he was calling a lot of the ladies “mom.” (The type of household he grew up in? A sign of respect?) I suppose being a mother is one of the highest callings, if you will.

    Could you pull off the “spread your legs” comment?

  2. Joseph Manos says:

    Great post Dave (as usual). All great points to consider but remember what line of work he is in as the approach he uses might be what he thinks is appropriate. What would be a wonderful counter view would be how did the folks he spoke with feel after meeting him? Hmmmm…

    For us business folks – great eye contact, genuine interest and pleased to meet you (mean it) are great starters but how about we then find out more about the person we are meeting. Type of work, parent, interests, etc..

    Working a room is a lot more meaningful when you really aren’t working the room but are interested in meeting the people, learning more about them and really listen to what they have to say without an agenda to sell them something.

    Using the approach outlined above it really does lead to new opportunities because the people you meet feel you are a person they would like to do business with based on the initial meeting experience.

    That would be how I would describe a Reagan approach versus a Biden approach.

    • Joe, great comment as usual. You raise some interesting thoughts, specifically around how the people he interacted with felt after speaking with him. I wonder if they felt he was genuine, or if they felt schmoozed?

      I also agree with your point about working a room being meaningful if you’re truly interested in the people you’re speaking with. I agree 100%. I think that’s key.

      Maybe I’ll try to find some footage of Reagan’s approach and we can compare and contrast!

      Thanks again for the reply,
      -dr-

  3. Pingback: Jerry Seinfeld on How to Write a Joke « Akathisia: Life In Motion — David Rosendahl

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