So I last spoke about networking. Networking is a plus from many perspectives, including:
- Get in the driver’s seat–you control your networking and what events you want to attend.
- Raise your profile externally-you want to be known in your industry.
- Raise your profile internally- management love it when you network!
- Develop your business.
- You never know who- you never know who you will meet. It could be a great new contact or friend.
- Learn something.
- Have a good time.
Most importantly you may have one of those Ahhhhaaaa moments. This is the moment when your potential client or employer tells you about a problem or situation with which you can help. However, before you can get to the Ahhhhaaaa moment you have to break the ice and have a strategy. Take a look at these icebreakers and strategies.
“What’s your connection to the event?” This question can uncover mutual contacts and usually leads to a more robust answer than if you asked the typical “Have you been to this event before?”
“What’s keeping you busy when you’re not at events like this or at work?”This question gives the encouragement necessary for the person to share his/her passions and outside interests. It is an excellent way to add some enthusiasm into a conversation that has hit a lull, especially if he/she would prefer to be doing that activity at that moment.
“Are you getting away this summer?” This question can lead to conversations about family, reveal special interests and, if you like talking about travel, it’s a sure-fire way to keep a conversation interesting.
Go Fishing At The Food Table
While waiting in line for the food, start chatting up the person next to you. This is a great opportunity to get a conversation started because you already have something in common: the food. Everyone is thinking the same thing, What am I going to try? What looks good?
So, instead of just standing there in silence, start a conversation. Here are a few conversation starters for this situation:
- “Oh man, everything looks so good… I’m not sure what to get! What are you thinking?”
- “Yummy, they have ___! Have you ever tried it?”
- “Hmm, I’m not quite sure what that dish is… do you know?”
Who knows, you might leave the buffet with a better plate of food AND a new contact! That’s a win-win in my book.
Find A Loner
If you see someone standing alone in the corner, clutching his or her drink, and looking miserable, don’t be afraid to walk up and introduce yourself. Typically, these people need a little help getting the conversation going.
Here are some ice breakers:
- “Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?”
- “Wow, there are a ton of people here! The food must be good, huh?”
If someone is standing alone, he or she is probably feeling uncomfortable or unconfident. If you initiate the conversation, it could make them feel more relaxed and willing to connect.
Everyone loves compliments, especially when they are feeling insecure (and many people do feel that way when attending networking events). If you’re struggling to start a conversation with someone, find something to compliment.
Here are some ideas:
- “Yum, that drink looks good. What is it?”
- “Cute shoes! Where did you get them?”
Keeping The Conversation Going
I know what you’re thinking, Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but how can I keep the conversation going after the initial question?
It’s easy! Talk about something else you have in common – the event itself! Here are some ideas:
- “I’m Gina, by the way, nice to meet you…”
- “So, is this your first time at one of these events?”
- “So, how did you hear about this event?”
- “What a great place for an event, huh? Have you ever been here before?”
After that, try learning more about them. Questions can include:
- “Are you from the area?”
- “What line of work are you in or trying to get in?”
Next step: get them talking. Remember, people generally like to talk about themselves. So, once they tell you what they do, ask questions about it. Here are a few:
- “That’s very interesting…”
- “What drew you to that line of work?”
- “What do you like about your job?”
BONUS: Your Exit Strategy
It’s that time: your drink is dry and you’re ready to move on. When the conversation starts to wind down, don’t try to force more. Remember, you’re there to mix and mingle – don’t chain yourself to one person all night.
If you’d like to exit a conversation, try one of these lines:
- “Alright, I’m going to get some food now that the line has died down a bit. It was great meeting you!”
- “Have you met Lisa? She works in your industry as well. I’m sure you both will have plenty to talk about. I’ve got to say hello to someone, but I’ll be back.”
- “Well, I think it’s time for me to head out. I would love to talk with you again, though. May I have your card/contact information?”
These are networking tools yo can use in any situation. Remember you are always networking, whether you are at an event or the dog park. DON’T FORGET YOUR CARDS!