Networking events are a fantastic way to make connections with the brilliant minds of your business’s industry. But if you’re not a natural conversationalist, the thought of attending something like this is completely out of your comfort zone – and can put you off taking part in this kind of experience all together!
Coming up with a natural-sounding conversation starter at a networking event is the first step to overcoming your fears, which is why we’ve compiled the very best conversation starters right here in one handy post. Each conversation starter has been specifically chosen to spark engaging chatter. Once you’ve put the line out there, you’re already in conversation – the hard part is over!
“Hi, I’m X, the Y from Z”We’ll start with a classic simple introduction. Let the potential connection know your name, what you do and where you work. Naturally, the person you’re starting the conversation with will then mimic this introduction. Once you know a little more about what they do, this completely opens the conversation up, allowing you to ask more tailored questions about them.
Couple this approach with an outstretched arm reaching for a firm (but brief) handshake and you’re onto a winner!
"I like your suit!"There’s nothing like a sincere compliment to win hearts at a networking event. You can replace the word ‘suit’ with anything relevant to the person in question. Maybe they have a really cool branded pen and notebook set for taking notes, a nice piece of jewellery or you could even compliment them on the talk they gave or questions they asked during the conference.
Compliments are a great way for introverts to start the conversation at networking events because they completely shift the focus onto the other person. Not only does this help with feelings of anxiety, but it also makes the person you’re speaking to feel good about themselves, which is a great way for them to remember you after the event.
"What did you like the most about today's event?"Even if you know nothing about the person you’re approaching to network with, you know that you at least have something in common: you’re attending the same event!
Ask the person you want to talk to what they’ve thought of the event so far, about any talks or conferences that have taken place, even the food and drinks that are being served. You already know they’ve had the experience – so if this isn’t a natural conversation starter, we don’t know what it!
"What do you love about your job?"Another great way to direct the conversation towards your potential contact (and therefore away from you) is to ask them what they’re passionate about. People love talking about what they love (and what they love to hate).
This direct approach fulfils completely your objective for attending a networking event as you’re going straight into business. It also means you can construct the conversation around their industry and what they’re interested in.
"What's your story?"Fed up of generic opening questions? Open the conversation right up with this open-ended question to spark something fascinating! They could tell you about how they came into business/the industry, or something a little more personal. Everyone’s got a story as to how they got where they are today, and they’re all as interesting as they are unique. This is a more personal question that will help put you on friendlier terms with the connection in question.
Seal the Deal with a Business Card
Once you’ve engaged someone in conversation, make sure you’re playing equal parts engager and listener – you should leave the conversation with the person you’ve spoken to knowing as much about you as you know about them. It’s also important not to talk to any one person for too long. You’re there to network with as many people as possible, and so are they, after all.
So just how do you ensure that this person becomes a contact and not just another acquaintance who’ll probably forget about you in five minutes' time? This is where business cards come in!
Common networking etiquette dictates that the polite thing to do is ask for someone else’s business card before offering yours. Once you’ve both exchanged business cards, say that it was nice to meet them and you look forward to discussing *insert your discussion topic* further in the future. And then move on to repeat the process with someone else!
Make sure you’ve got your LinkedIn, email address and telephone number on your business card so the recipient has numerous ways to get in touch with you.
Follow Up After the Event
There’s no point using these awesome conversation starters if you don’t complete the most important part of networking – following up after the event! Here are a few follow up tips to help you solidify that new business relationship.
- Be quick – we recommend following up within 24 hours of the event so that the acquaintance remembers you
- Send an email – if you’re following up via email, remember to include your name in the subject line so the contact knows who’s getting in touch with them
- Refer back – referring to a conversation you had with this person at the event will help job their memory of who you are and shows that you were paying attention
- Suggest going for coffee – if you work nearby, such as in the same city, as the acquaintance, ask them to join you for a coffee to continue the conversation
- Connect online – add them on LinkedIn to further build your professional relationship
We hope these top tips help you make some fantastic professional connections. Keep your eye on our small business blog for more network marketing tips for business owners who hate networking.