This is a busy time of year for networking events and conferences. And let’s not forget International Women’s Day. I’ve been to a number of events over the past few weeks where women (and men) have chatted away happily. Yet I know sometimes it can feel a bit awkward at a formal event particularly if going alone or you don’t know anyone there.
It happened to me recently when I walked into a busy function after a conference where I had been speaking. They all knew each other – it was an industry event and I’d really only met one or two people. So straight to the bar I go for a glass of reinforcement and after a few minutes conversation started taking place.
I think if we treat networking a bit like socialising it will feel a lot easier and more enjoyable.
However sometimes we just don’t know what to say.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to networking successfully involves knowing the best way to start a conversation. A few suggestions include: sport (often a great conversation starter!)
Even if neither you or the people you are talking to are interested in football or golf, it may lead to a conversation about what you are interested in. If you’ve done some prior research you can discuss a topical or newsworthy item. Also try to establish something in common between you and the person you are speaking to that is not necessarily related to your business. For example, you may have both been to the same holiday destination.
Some other ideas to break the ice and begin a conversation are:
- What is the most interesting project you are working on at the moment?
- Tell me about your business.
- What line of work are you in?
- What do you do?
- How long have you been in that role?
- Where are you based?
- How did you get started in business?
- Do you have expansion plans for your business?
- Trends in the industry – what impact do you think XYZ will have?
- Do you find it difficult to find the right staff/contractors?
- How long have you been living and working in City/Suburb/Country?
- Can you recommend any great restaurants/places to see?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- Where did you get those fabulous shoes/necklace?
Open-ended questions are best, such as who, what, where and when? As an example:
- What brings you along to XYZ event – are you a member?
- I’m looking forward to hearing what XYZ speaker has to say. Have you heard them speak before?
- Weather – although not exactly exciting can still be a conversation opener.
It is important to remember that your woes, worries and weight are not the best conversation starters.
Before you go off to an event, why not plan a few conversation starters based on these topics.
This article is a short excerpt from IMPRESSario – Present and Promote the Star Within You. Find out more here.
If you would like to know a bit more about personal branding and my methodology, download my free video series, your NOOK, LOOK, HOOK, 3 Steps to Build a Stand out Personal Brand.
Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is recognised as a leading authority on personal branding to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her professional development and profile building programs, workshops, consulting and keynote presentations, Sue helps businesses and entrepreneurs position and present an influential professional brand.