At the end of your meeting with the big boss he tells you that you have to attend a networking event and mingle around!
If you are a social person by nature and you find it easy to talk to strangers then it shouldn’t be too much hard work. If you are one of many that would rather do almost anything than make small talk with a room full of strangers, then I have few tips and icebreakers that I have researched – and that worked for me – to share with you to help you start a conversation with less effort.
Partner Up: Attend networking events with a referral partner or somebody who you may share clients with. You will promote each other’s businesses and will have someone to keep you company and will make you w little less nervous.
Be a Host: Act more like a host at the event rather than a guest. Try and help other people find where the coffee is, welcome them, and ask them where they heard about the event from, etc. Remember, there are other nervous people there, make them feel comfortable.
Arrive Early: If you are one of the first people in the room, there are less people there and you are likely to be more comfortable as people come. If too many people arrive you can leave.
Come Prepared: “As you prepare for a function, come up with three things to talk about as well as four generic questions that will get others talking.” Good generic questions focus on things that most of us have dealt with at some point, such as, “I’m not sure where to go on vacation this year. Have you taken a good vacation recently?” Advice offered by Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk.
Ask and listen: Sometimes the best small talk is not talking at all. Learn to ask great questions that get others to talk. Remember that people love to talk about themselves, especially when they have an attentive listener.
Lose the elevator pitch: How many of you have an elevator pitch ready so you can briefly state what you do at a networking event? Do you really remember what anyone says? Wouldn’t you rather have someone have an engaging conversation with you, over clever phrasing that they’ve clearly memorized. Good networking is about connection, enough so that people want to talk to us again. When you focus on that, it’s much easier to start any conversation, and keep it going well past the event’s end.
- “I’m trying to make myself meet new people here instead of just talking to the usual suspects. Do you mind me saying hello and introducing myself?”
- “Are you originally from [wherever the event is], or did your business bring you here?”
- “How did you happen to come to this event?”
- “What networking events or groups have you found ineffective? How so?”
- “How can I be a good referrer for you?”
- “What are some ways we might be able to work together?”
- “What did you think of the speaker / host?”
- “That’s a great pair of shoes (or great neckless), where did you get it?” Everyone likes compliments, don’t you?
- “Have you tried the food yet? The desserts look pretty fantastic”
- “How are you surviving this heat so far? I’m so glad I changed before coming here. This weather lately has felt like a 1,000 degrees.”
Don’t hesitate, just network and remember
- “Match” people, pace and volume
- Be interested in them
- 10 minutes with each person, no more unless they are genuinely interested
- Listen more than you talk
- Make notes on business cards
- Connect with people who have a need, if you can
- Follow up – appropriately
For more tips on how to get more comfortable with networking events, visit:
Written by: Eyad Khamis