It’s important to develop and build professional or social contacts by interacting with others while you are at networking events, right? But it isn’t always easy to find a good conversation starter when meeting new people in a social environment.
We’ll take a look at some tried and tested methods to help you at your next networking event. These conversation starters are helpful for more than one reason, such as landing a dream job with a client or sharing business news.
Read on to find out how to become better with conversations by using some of these conversation starters.
What is networking?
This section will quickly bring those new to the concept up to speed so they can easily follow along with the tips below. Networking is basically the act of meeting people at any event, whether it’s in a social or business context.
It’s an interaction between people, sharing information that might benefit both parties for advancing business or social opportunities. This social gathering is called a networking event which can be planned solely for the purpose of sharing information about corporate events.
Use some of the following conversation starters while handing out your business cards to attract prospective clients to your business.
5 Business conversation starters
The art of small talk can be difficult to master, but it’s especially important if you want to form new business relationships that can be mutually beneficial for everyone. Here are a few conversation starters to kick things off right with a potential client.
1. What do you do?
This is one of the oldest questions asked by even the most expert-level networking professionals. People are always eager to talk about their interests, and using that as a conversation starter will help them to open up.
It’s especially important that you use the right conversation starter to establish a link with the other party as quickly as possible. And this is a tried and tested ice breaker to give you the results you need when networking in a business environment.
So, the next time you network, try it out; you will be surprised by how easily people talk about their job.
2. How did you get into this profession/industry?
While moving around those attending an event, it’s easy to spot those who are new. They normally stand alone in a corner, looking out of place, uneasy about approaching those around them to start a conversation.
You can easily use this conversation starter to help them feel more at ease and boost their confidence. This will also help you have a one-on-one conversation with a potential business associate or to attract a new client to your business.
Plus, it’s a great follow-up on the previous question.
3. Is this your first networking event?
You can break the ice by asking if it’s their first time joining a networking event.
It’s a great question that works whether you’re new to networking or not. If you’re also new, then you’ll both have something in common to talk about. However, if you’re a networking veteran, you can share some advice to the person you’re meeting.
Likewise, if they happen to be a networking pro, they can show you around the ropes.
4. Do you mind if I join you?
This is one of the best conversation starters to use at networking events where a few newbies are standing around. However, it’s not only meant to be used for newbies; it can be used on anyone, even with those you are familiar with.
You can use this conversation starter to join an existing group or use it with an individual who’s trying to find their footing. This also shows that you’re polite and respect their privacy without being overbearing and forcing yourself into a conversation with them.
It helps to be a little bit distant to give the other party some time and space to open up to you.
5. What brings you to this networking event?
Everyone has a reason why they attend a networking event, and establishing that is some of the best information we can get. If you know why a certain person is at the event, you can start building on the conversation and establish a quick and easy bond.
This can be used as an ice breaker after the introduction and when the conversation is drying up. People are very eager to talk about their reason for attending in the hopes of establishing a bond with others.
You should use this together with the other conversation starters to build rapport with your target so you can take the conversation to the next level.
5 Social conversation starters
Sometimes the reason for networking is less about business and more about socializing with people. Below are a few easy conversation starters to help you get to know people on a more personal level.
1. I hate networking
If you walk up to someone who is standing alone and open the conversation with this, they might appreciate it. It’s an especially great opening line for those who find socializing difficult and are a bit shy to make the first move.
Finding someone who feels the same about networking may cause them to open up to you and feel more comfortable to talk. It’s not easy for everyone to socialize, so approaching new people at these events might just score you a longtime friend or colleague.
Start the conversation the next time you find a loner, and you might be surprised at how they open up to you.
2. Hi, my name is (your name)
Simply introducing yourself to a target is a sure way to get their attention and get the conversation started quickly. They will have to respond to you and provide their own name to get the back-and-forth exchange of information going.
This is only the beginning of getting to know the other party better so you can build a bond with them. It’s one of the easiest ways to pull someone into a conversation, and it’s a question that naturally leads into something more.
3. Talk about the food
Most events have something to eat for those attending, which gives you something to talk about.
For example, if they have the same food on their plate, you can talk about that by telling them how you like certain types of food. The type of beverage can also be a great conversation starter if you know some interesting facts about it.
Food at a networking event is a great way to start a conversation, and everyone at the event has something on their plate to comment on.
4. The room temperature
Yes, this may be a bit cliched, but cliches exist because they work. To get a conversation started, you can tell them it’s cold or hot in here, opening it up for them to respond. Your remark on the temperature in the room can help both parties get the conversation started and continue making small talk.
Follow that up with small talk about the weather, and before long, you will have a lot more to talk about. Whether they brought along warm clothes in case it gets cold can be the next topic on your list.
An umbrella and raincoat can take you further into establishing a bond so you can keep networking without any trouble.
5. Is it quieter over here?
This is a good way to get someone’s attention, which can lead to talking about yourself and their interests. Starting with this ice breaker can be just the right ticket to sparking a longer conversation.
It might be quieter on this side of the room or not; that doesn’t matter if the ice is broken and you are talking. You can then build on your conversation on the quieter side of the room with that person or group of people.
Nobody will hold it against you if this side of the room is really quieter; you got the conversation started, and that’s what it’s all about.
Tips to maintain a conversation
Below are a few great conversation starter tips you can follow to be more successful at networking. While there are great professional courses available where you can learn how to network like a pro, let’s try these out.
Take the initiative
A very effective way to start and keep the conversation going is to be the first to say hello. This is also an effective way to show that you have confidence (even if you don’t feel confident in the moment).
It’s especially a problem for networking newbies who are a bit unsure of how to conduct themselves. Those who frequent these events also don’t make it easy for newbies since they tend to stick with those they’re already familiar with.
Taking the initiative and talking to your target individuals may help break the ice for networking opportunities.
Talk about what you do
Share information with your target about yourself and your line of work and anything else you want them to know about you.
You can also share things like what a typical day as a freelancer is like and how long you have worked in your industry. Personal stories about yourself can help the other party identify opportunities to keep the conversation interesting.
Find common interests
In order to find mutual connections in a conversation, find and establish common interests between the other party and yourself. This can be done by talking about the weather and asking about their favorite sports and the sports teams they support.
By doing so, the conversation can lead to more personal levels, such as their favorite books and their favorite music. It’s always good to start with unimportant things such as the weather or your favorite holiday destination.
With these types of questions, you can have an interesting conversation and establish an emotional bond which can lead to real interest. You can even talk about an embarrassing thing that happened to you at your first networking event and how you overcame it.
You should ask open-ended questions
If you ask questions that hang in the air or have more than one answer, it may prompt a detailed response from the other party. This will also persuade them to talk more expansively about a certain topic.
Depending on their level of expertise, the other party may also ask an open-ended question to build a quick and strong connection. A potential client or business associate may also gain more confidence as they provide detailed answers to your questions.
The more they talk, the more information they’ll provide, which will allow you to get more information to use later in the conversation.
Show a genuine interest
The purpose of attending any networking event is to widen your relationships in the industry you are working in. Show real interest in what the other party has to say or what they share even if you aren’t really interested.
Some people will use the weirdest thing to start a conversation at a networking event to get the attention of their target, so showing interest will encourage them to keep talking and can help them overcome their initial difficulty in starting a conversation.
You can build rapport and form a connection much faster by showing some interest in what they have to say.
Invite others into a group
If you are in a conversation with some people and it’s starting to dry up, you can always invite someone else into the conversation. This will spark new interest and a new perspective on what you’re talking about or even help to change the subject.
You can introduce yourself and the rest of the current group to the new person and clue them in on what you were talking about. They may choose to join in or try to change the subject, either way you’ll be keeping the conversation going.
The introduction of a new person can always shed new light on a certain topic and renew the conversation. This is also a great method to try if you see someone standing around by themselves, so you can meet new people faster.
Meet as many people as possible
This brings us to a very important aspect of networking: to get familiar with as many people as possible in every networking session. The more people you meet, the better your opportunities to get more clients.
Move around the room as much as possible and get into as many conversations as you can. This way you will meet more people and won’t waste time on those that don’t benefit your career or business.
When you find there are no new people to meet, return to those you had a good connection with and cultivate it. It may seem like a selfish act, but that is mostly what networking is about, making as many connections as possible.
Keep working on the connections that are the strongest to make the most out of every networking session.
Thank people for speaking with you
After every conversation, you should thank every person for taking the time to speak with you. Tell them that you enjoyed the conversation and their company before departing from them, and point out which part you enjoyed the most.
Let them know that you learned a lot from them in the short time you spent together. Extend a personal thank you to every person and a general thanks to the group for their time.
A volunteer thank you will end the conversation on a good note and can lead to an opportunity of you two meeting again later on.
Hand out business cards
Don’t forget this final part of networking which will help you and them to stay in contact. An exchange of business cards with others in your line of work provides you with a great networking opportunity for future events.
Tell any of your counterparts that they can contact you with anything they need your help with. For instance, whether they are looking for new opportunities or looking to find a new job or anything else business related.
Inform them that you will do the same, sealing the deal on this new professional connection you’ve established.
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