For some people, striking up a conversation with strangers comes naturally. For the rest of us, the mere thought of networking can be daunting. Among the fears associated with networking is the simple act of how to start a conversation with someone. However, when heading to a networking event, it is important to have a strategy and plan on how you will meet (and talk) to people. Below we’ll discuss 3 conversation starters to help you prepare for your next event and make sure your put your best foot forward.
“I really like your _______.”
Complimenting someone’s outfit or accessories is the easiest way to strike up a conversation because it instantly gives you something trivial to talk about that you’re both interested in. This can act as a segue into an introduction and further conversation about your careers or the event you’re attending. When getting ready for an event, try to include a statement piece such as an eye catching necklace (for women) or an interesting watch or cufflinks (for men). This will give other attendees something to start a conversation about with you.
Look for something you have in common and talk about it.
Just by being at the event, you have at least a few things in common with everyone in the room: the fact that you chose to attend, the room you’re standing in, and the food and drink you’re consuming. Use these things to strike up conversation about what’s going on around you. If you’re close to the buffet table, ask someone standing near you if they’ve tried the appetizers and what they think of them. Ask someone else how they heard about the event and their affiliation with the organization that’s hosting it. Finding common ground gives you something to talk about and makes starting a conversation less awkward.
Shockingly enough, sometimes this classic conversation starter is the best way to meet new people. When you walk into the event, look for someone standing alone on the sidelines. Chances are they’re just as nervous as you and are waiting for someone else to strike up a conversation. Just tell them your name and extend a hand. You don’t need to over-think it. They’ll be thrilled you took the initiative. Keep the conversation going by asking the basics: what someone does, why they’re at the event, how their day is going. Once you meet one new person, you’ll be able to introduce them to the next person they meet, and they can do the same for you.
Even though starting up a conversation can be intimidating the fact is, no one’s going to turn you away at a networking event if you smile, extend a hand, and say, “I’m so-and-so. Nice to meet you.” They are there to network too and will be relieved that someone else started the conversation. However, having a few ice breakers in your pocket that don’t involve a polar bear joke, definitely makes the process easier. You don’t have to work the room and meet everyone, but try to set a goal of meeting 3 people per event and having a good conversation with them.
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