Networking is important across many professions but not all of us know how to do it well, (even if we think we do.) Many of us attend networking events with an agenda, whether that’s for sales opportunities, career advancement, to stay on top of market trends or something else. Because of this, it’s easy to get absorbed in achieving what you need rather than taking the time to make genuine connections.
The most successful networkers are so because they take a genuine interest in the people that they speak to. They approach every interaction as an opportunity to truly get to know the person they are conversing with in order to establish real friendships. We take a look at some conversation starters you can kick-off conversations with to get the ball rolling and make meaningful connections.
Lead into a question
Walking up to someone and immediately dropping in “so, what do you do?” doesn’t always garner the best response. Many people will be flustered or irritated by the direct approach which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the conversation. Instead, consider framing your question in a more light-hearted way. Generate interest by opening up a debate; something like “me and my friend have a difference of opinion on this subject… what do you think?”
Talk about something interesting
Ok, we get it, a lot of people like to talk about what they do. But it does grow old eventually and opening up a conversation with more substance is a lot more likely to spark interest. Their answers to your question will naturally lead to continued conversation.
Some examples are:
1. What do you think the most important qualities are in other people?
2. What book do you think everyone should read?
3. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
4. What is the definition of a good leader?
5. How relevant will smartphones remain in the next decade?
Not everyone is confident speaking in groups and that’s fine, it doesn’t make effective networking impossible by any means. Think about who you want to speak to and make a beeline for them when they are away from a group. Start off with a compliment based on their skills and then guess something about them. Something along the lines of “you explained that really well, have you done training before?” This will immediately put the person you are speaking to at ease and will open up the conversation further.
Play to your circumstances
If your event is in a different city and you know the person that you’re speaking to is local, ask them what the nightlife is like and whereto see before you leave. Or, open up with something you have enjoyed about the event for far. If their company is hosting the event, ask them if there is anything you definitely shouldn’t miss before you leave.
There’s plenty to consider at networking events but if you’re open and genuine, people are likely to warm to you, even if you’re not the smoothest person in the room.