Every time I do presentations about how to be a more effective networker, the number one question on everyone’s mind is, how do you start a conversation with someone you don’t know?
As a veteran of many networking events, I feel everyone’s pain on this one. I’m actually more of a “sit back and see what happens” kind of gal, and I really find it hard to talk to people I don’t know either. But in order to grow my business, I had to learn how to get out there, and in order for you to get a job, you’re going to need to master this skill too.
The best opening line? A compliment! Who doesn’t love receiving a compliment, and who doesn’t instantly love the person giving the compliment? It is a never fail conversation starter.
Here’s how it typically goes: As a woman, I’ll usually compliment a guy on his tie (psst….I don’t always LIKE the tie, but I can say something like “I’ve never seen a tie quite like that one, there’s got to be a story behind it.” and it works just as well). I have absolutely no idea why, but about 70% of the time they actually have some sort of story behind their tie. Then because I just gave them a compliment, and listened to their tie story, they are much more open to talking to me.
For a man trying to network with a woman without coming across as a cheesy pickup line? Stick to comments about the venue, food, traffic or speaker. You can also ask how she heard about the event, and what she’s hoping to get out of it.
One other tip that always works, look for the other person at the event who isn’t talking to anyone else, but looks just as dazed/confused/lost as you probably do. They will welcome your conversation.
The goal is to get the other person in a favorable state of mind to talk to you. Once you’ve broken the ice, you can ask them more questions about their background, and then share your experiences that correlate with theirs.
Networking just takes practice. The more attempts you make to create friends at these events, the better you’ll get at it. Promise.
Now get off your couch and get goin’!
By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com
Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com