For some people, conversation and human interaction is an effortless task – for others, not so much. It can be difficult or stressful to engage in conversation in a group setting. This post will provide some tips for starting a conversation during what can already be a nerve-wracking experience: a networking event.
It is important to be confident at a networking event and own the room. Confidence is mentioned a lot given it shows in posture, attitude and how you speak. Finding what makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable can help you find ways to boost your confidence. Attending a networking event can be a bit scary, but being confident in yourself can help you get through the day.
There are many different ways to start a conversation. See what works for you and gives you the best outcome.
Do your Homework
Start by doing some homework. See if you can find out who will be in attendance. If you can, begin by identifying a few people you would like to talk to. Do some background research on them to make the conversation flow smoothly. Also, look at research on topics that tend to come up at the event. By being prepared, you will feel more confident as you enter the event.
Starting a Conversation
An easy starter would be “Hello, my name is [your name].” It may seem obvious, but this conversation starter is a simple icebreaker that gets straight to the point that you are ready to get the ball rolling and find out what you can about the next person. Make sure that you are passing on confidence to make you both feel comfortable in your conversation. As a confidence booster, remember who you are and what you want professionally.
Joining a Conversation
Often at events, people will already be in groups of people they may already know and would like to join. You can start with a simple, “Hello! Mind if I join?” After this, make sure you find your niche in the discussion and try not to interrupt, but don’t get lost in someone else’s conversation.
Give a little initial background about yourself. This will give the other person a chance to feel a more comfortable and think about what they would like to say about themselves. Start with something like, “I don’t know many people here, so I want to introduce myself. My name is [your name] and I work for [your company] doing [X work]. What about you?”.
Avoid Touchy Subjects
Stay away from touchy subjects. Your goal is to build business relationships and potential friendships, and if you find someone who doesn’t have your same beliefs, it will not go well. You want to find a connection with someone you can reach out at a later date.
- Avoid: Politics
So many political issues and current events are personal to people and can raise strong emotions. A professional event is not the right place find out where people stand. If the conversation starts to veer into that territory, excuse yourself politely. Make sure you remove yourself from the situation, and don’t blurt anything out that you’ll regret.
- Avoid: Details about your personal life
You want to be remembered as a professional, and you never want to overshare certain things that go on in your life. Keep your personal life personal. It’s is ok if someone asks, but try not to get lost in the conversation and go too into detail.
- Avoid: Venting about Work
Stay positive. Many people have those bad days and can relate. Understand that they may listen, but they’re probably hoping you’ll change the subject. Plus, you don’t want to come off as a “Negative Nancy”. If you are having one of those days before a networking event, take a deep breath!
Focus on the Familiar
Focus on conversation topics you are familiar with. You never want to start a conversation about something you can’t knowledgeably speak about. Find things that interest you, and you may find someone with the same interest. For example, never ask someone about a game that you may have heard about but doesn’t interest you. If you find someone passionate about it, that can be a conversation killer because you’ll have nothing to add.
Give a Compliment
Compliments are icebreakers that tend to make people comfortable and willing to continue the conversation. People love to talk about themselves, so this gives them a chance to open up. When you compliment others, you are much more likely to get a compliment in return. This will reinforce your strong points and make you feel more self-assured. Remember, there is always a fine line. Don’t overdo it because you don’t want to come across like a groupie.
There are articles that can give you more topic ideas to have in your pocket. If you’re an introvert, you may want to practice a little on the street just to boost some confidence and help rip off the bandage.
Networking is difficult for many people. Remember to be prepared, stay confident and understand the fine line between being open and being unprofessional. We all make mistakes, but you should always try to learn from them. Practice makes perfect, so you will always do better as you get more events under your belt.
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