Networking can be intimidating. You’re putting yourself out there, and whether you are an introvert, or an extrovert, being vulnerable is challenging. While you learn from those experiences that intimidate you, nobody likes an uncomfortably long pause. To help subside your fears of striking up a conversation with a stranger, we’ve rounded up 5 ways you can start one with confidence, and steer clear of “So how about this weather, huh?”
1. Ask “How did you find out about this event?”
You’re both in the same room, so it’s likely that you have something in common. While this question may not be as thought-provoking as others, it can be an effective lead-in to some extended discussion.
2. Go Beyond “What Do You Do for Work?”
As much as we’d like to say avoid this question all together, North Americans seem conditioned to ask it. If you must, dig a little deeper past those stiff job descriptions, and day-by-day duties, and ask what part of their career they are most passionate about.
3. Fill in the Blank.
Get things started by bringing up a recent juicy book you just finished, a new song you can’t get off repeat, or a new film you went to. I recently read/saw/listened to… you fill in the rest. Discussing something you are genuinely interested in will show, and when your conversational partner shares their recent picks, you’ve got some great new recommendations.
4. Turn to Inspiration.
Turn the spotlight off of you and whoever you are speaking with, and simply ask them which thought leaders they like to follow or stay up to date with? One can never have too much inspiration.
5. Check Out the Room.
If you’re slightly uncomfortable, know that you aren’t alone, and scope out the room to find someone who looks like they could use a convo buddy. Don’t know what to say now that you’ve gotten over there? Introduce yourself and if you’re meeting at a conference, bring up a shared experience like an earlier panel you both attended or ask what their favourite part of the day has been so far.
What’s your favourite way to break the ice?