It’s a term that so many people cringe at, it evokes images of suits, bad finger food and having to TALK to people.
The last part is what really makes people nervous.
How do I approach a crowd at a networking event?
What do I say to someone at a networking event?
Why would anyone want to talk to me anyways?
These are just some of the ridiculous questions that come to mind when we’re going to these events.
I’ve had people approach me in some of the weirdest ways. Some people don’t even introduce themselves but immediately talk about my latest blog post or tweet. Sometimes people have simply lurk from a close distance waiting for an opportunity to jump into a conversation.
It’s weird. It’s awkward.
But it can be fixed.
It starts by understanding that everyone at a networking event is a human. And humans tend to connect with people who truly understand the art of conversation. In this blog post, I’m going to show you exactly how to start a conversation and not be awkward.
Here are 9 simple one line conversation starters that you can use for your next event:
“My name’s XYZ, what do you do?”
Yes, literally your name and asking what the other person does for a living, it is that easy. People build up networking into some scary thing but it is even easier than meeting people in the real world. At a networking event everyone is there with the assumption that people will want to casually talk to them, remember that and it only get’s easier.
“I’m XYZ, how’s your night going?”
This is a great opening line for you to use when someone seems like they aren’t great at networking and maybe need someone to say “Hi”. No matter how uncomfortable you are at a networking event there is always someone that is more uncomfortable and often they are fantastic people that just need someone to ask how their night is going. Be the person who reaches out to them and you will gain huge rapport with them.
“I’m XYZ, are you from [hosting city]?”
This one can actually turn out great if they say yes.
If you are from out of town and they happen to be from the hosting city and you hit it off they can tell you places to check out or end up going out with you after the event.
Larger conferences often have after parties or are timed to happen at the same time as local events and nothing builds rapport like going on an adventure with someone. If the conference happens to be in your home town you get to be the one to show them around. I have made so many connections by introducing someone to a donair (local late-night food in Halifax) after a night of shows and tech talk.
“I’m XYZ, I wanted to introduce myself”
This one is actually more formal than I tend to be but if the person you are talking to is someone you have always wanted to meet then you will want to take this route. You may want to mention work they have done that you are a fan of, that you have seen and thought was impressive; only do this is you actually care about the work, no one likes a fake person.
“So I have this situation and I need your advice…”
I tend to use this one once I am deeper into a conversation and I have some rapport with the person I am talking to. This might be a way to open up a person when you have been talking in a group conversation; you have been sitting at a table or standing in a circle all talking but you want to talk to one person who is a bit more of a focus for you. Wait for a lull in the conversation and use this to pull the person into a one on one conversation.
This question shows that you have respect for their skillset and want their advice, make sure it is a small ask though as no one likes giving away the farm.
“Did you try the [great food at the event], it’s so good.”
Food, we all love food.
We love eating food and talking about food, if we didn’t then we wouldn’t instagram it so often.
You are looking to connect over something that is universal and you can always tell who the people are this will work with. The people that love convention food are the ones that you will see with a little napkin in their hand with food on it, or waiting in the area where the servers walk through to hand out finger foods. You will often find me there!
“I’m XYZ, I work for ACME. Where do you work?”
This is a great opening line at the beginning of a conference, nothing has really happened yet so there is less to talk about that is conference relevant. This opener allows for a very easy conversation about work, why you are out networking etc. This isn’t a topic I stay on for long but as an opener it is something everyone will have an answer for.
“I’m excited for [Keynote Speaker], have you heard them speak before?”
This one you can only really use at larger events and only if you know or care about the keynote speaker (let’s be real sometimes you don’t). If you are going to a conference make sure you look over the speaker list before hand and review who everyone is, even if you aren’t totally into a speaker being the person who knows about the speakers makes you a valuable friend to have. This will allow you to talk to people about the different conference lectures, the keynotes for each day, and overall makes you seem in the know.
“Have you been to this event before?”
This one you only use at events that happen on a reoccurring basis, yearly or monthly conferences are a really great way to meet people and build relationships because you get to see those people you made friends with over and over again.
With events that are monthly you also get to become one of the regulars which only makes meeting people easier, the more frequently you go the more friends and connections you will make.
Networking can be really fun if you can relax while doing it. You want to focus on real connections and people that you are interested in talking to, topics you are passionate about, and keep in mind that everyone that is at the event WANTS to network. They are at an event that is centered around talking to other people, all you need to do is jump in and start talking.
Take a look at your local Meetup or Eventbrite and find a networking event that you can go to this month! Go out there and make some friends, you never know where you will end up or who you will meet.
What lines have you used in the past to introduce yourself to someone? What lines have you heard and what lines came off cornier than a pick up line in the 12th grade? We’d love to hear both the good and the bad in the comments!