In today’s world, networking is more important than ever before. Whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to advance in your career, or just trying to meet new people, networking is essential.
Small talk is a vital networking skill, yet many people dread it. If you find yourself feeling awkward or tongue-tied when meeting new people, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
The good news is that small talk is a skill that can be learned, and there are some simple things you can do to make it easier.
Here are 3 simple steps for striking up a conversation and making the most of networking events:
Preparation Before A Networking Event
1- Have a few topics of conversation prepared.
Stay current with community and world events. Offer sincere compliments if you like someone’s style or if you know that they recently won an award. Read the latest industry publications and come ready to discuss things that interest you!
2- Prepare answers to common questions.
Practice your responses to questions that you hear all the time. Put an interesting or amusing spin on your description of the work you do or your hometown.
A few common questions to consider:
Where are you from?
Which college did you attend?
What’s your current role?
What did you do before this?
Do you enjoy what you do?
3- Check your body language.
Above all, try to relax. Appearing confident and friendly will help you have a good time and meet more people. You’ll also help those around you to feel more at ease.
4- Take a plus one.
It’s always easier when you have a wing-woman by your side to ease your nerves and give you that “You got this!” pep talk. Bring someone who compliments your personality!
I personally have a Business Bestie who knows just as much about my business as I do, and vice versa. We attend events together and it seems that we organically talk about each other. I feel much more relaxed and tend to speak confidently when I’m not alone.
,, Basic Communication Principles
1- Wear a Statement Piece.
Wear a bold item with a story. Something that brings attention and can be a conversation starter like a necklace, a pair of shoes, or even a handbag that stands out.
I have a bright pink necklace that aligns with my brand. I get so many compliments when wearing it. I turn those compliments into conversations about my work. It’s much easier to connect when someone else starts the conversation.
2- Ask open-ended questions.
Keep the dialogue flowing with open-ended questions. Ask people about their impressions and experiences.
Follow-up questions like, “How long ago?”, “How did you know it would work out?”, or “Where did. you learn that?” are great ways to ask the speaker to expound. This shows you were listening while continuing the conversation.
3- Practice active listening.
Give people your full attention and show your enthusiasm. Turn off your cell phone or at least put it on vibrate if you have to take urgent calls.
4- Enter group conversations.
If everyone’s already engaged, you can still find opportunities to be included. When you see two people talking, check first to avoid interrupting something personal. With larger groups, discreetly wait until there’s an opening to make an appropriate comment.
5- Keep it brief.
Leave people wanting more. Learn to excuse yourself tactfully by mentioning that you need to speak with someone or get something to eat. Let people know that you appreciated meeting them or hope to see them again soon.
Special Tips for Networking Events
1- Take advantage of easy icebreakers.
Networking events are designed for meeting people, so seize the opportunity. It’s natural to talk about why you came and the benefits you hope to achieve. Just take an equal interest in helping others with their goals.
2- Ask for information if you’re a newcomer.
If it’s your first time, ask others for their guidance. Many people will be flattered to share their knowledge. Tell the workers at the registration desk that you’re new, and they may point out people on their welcoming committee or individuals in your line of business.
3- Offer assistance if you’re a veteran.
If you’re already familiar with the organization, help newcomers feel at home. You may make valuable connections and you’ll create a positive environment for everybody. Remember networking is a symbiotic relationship… Everyone wins!
,4- Exchange introductions.
Broaden your network by identifying people you want to meet and mutual colleagues who can help introduce you. Be ready to reciprocate when others ask for introductions. Check the registration sheet for the names and affiliations of interesting people or use business-oriented social networks like LinkedIn to get more ideas.
5- Share business cards.
When you’ve had a promising conversation, use your business cards to help make a lasting connection. Offer your card or QR code and reiterate any specific reason for staying in touch. When someone gives you their card, use the back to jot down any details you need to remember.
Get comfortable with schmoozing. Improving your small talk skills will help you build your self-confidence and broaden your social and business networks.
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