If you’re an introvert (like me), work events that involve networking probably strike fear in your heart. You know that you’re supposed to circulate and talk to new people. But starting conversations with strangers is so difficult! How do you even begin?
Approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation can be really challenging. But luckily, author Karen Herzberg has a few tips to make the process easier! Here is her list of seven ways to successfully strike up a conversation:
- Acknowledge that you’re suffering together – You’re probably not the only person who’s feeling uncomfortable at a networking event. Networking isn’t easy for a lot of people. So just be honest about it! Walk up to a person and say, “Networking is so difficult, isn’t it? I always feel so awkward!”
- Focus on the positive – Did you attend an interesting session earlier in the day? Are the conference facilities nice? Are there tasty snacks or drinks available? If so, talk about it! Say something like, “Have you tried the mini-cheesecakes? They’re delicious!”
- Be complimentary – Another way you can break the ice is by paying someone a compliment. If you saw the person give a presentation or speech, you can compliment him or her on it. Or, you can compliment the person on something that he or she is wearing. (“I love your shirt!”) Just don’t compliment people on their physical appearance (eyes, hair, skin, etc.). That might be creepy.
- Ask for the person’s opinion – If the networking event is part of a conference, you can ask someone what he or she thought of a certain session. For instance, you might say, “Did you see that presentation about beekeeping? What did you think of it?”
- Ask for help – Another ice-breaker that you can use is to ask someone for help. For instance, you can ask someone how to get to a certain conference room. Just be ready with a follow-up question, because after the person provides you with assistance, the conversation could easily be over!
- Offer to provide help – Do you see someone who looks a little confused, burdened, or frazzled? Offer your assistance! It could be a great way to start a conversation, and the person will probably be very appreciative!
- Find common ground – This final technique can really be used in combination with the other items on this list. It simply involves finding things that you have in common with the other person. For instance, you might say, “Where did you grow up?” or “What department do you work in?” If you can discover a connection with the other person, you’ll have an instant bond and a lot to talk about!
Hertzberg, K. (2017, October 1). 7 practical tips on how to start a conversation. Grammarly Blog. Retrieved from: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-start-a-conversation/