The idea of attending an event where you know no-one else can be extremely daunting. Not everyone is naturally blessed with the gift of the gab. Initiating a conversation is an important part of businesses. Small talk is an essential part of developing, building and maintaining businesses connections.
If you find it hard to pluck up the courage to approach a fellow peer, I have some suggestions for conversation starters.
Firstly, when you do approach someone remember these three things to initiate a good impression:
2. Introduce yourself
3. Shake their hand
When they introduce themselves I find it helpful to repeat their name three times if possible – this helps to remember them.
Here are some other strategies to help you break the ice:
1 - If you are attending a networking function, nametags are hugely beneficial. You can also use a nametag to your advantage for others to initiate conversation with you;
“Joe Smith, Client Manager, recovering from my first half-marathon.”
Or “Joe Smith, Client Manager, planning my dream holiday to Queenstown.”
2 - Use compliments:
It might be about your setting “This is a really beautiful old building”
Or compliment the function “I’ve heard this speaker before, and they were fantastic”.
3 - Discuss general interest subjects: films, sports, your family, where you live or where you grew up. This helps to find common ground with someone, from which you can build your conversation
4 - Be well informed: knowing what is going on in the world will make it easier to find topics to discuss with people you are meeting with.
Have some openings up your sleeve; these may be related to current news or local happenings “did you watch the rugby world cup?” or “I went to the new restaurant in town last weekend, it was fantastic, have you been there?”
5 - Ask questions or for advice: ask how people spend their time, outside interests, family, outdoor pursuits, hobbies. If you are speaking with someone into mountain biking, ask them where their favourite places are to ride.
6 - Listen, be present in the moment: A conversation is two-way, so it is important to listen to what your peer is saying and encourage the conversation. Maintain eye contact and use your body language to show you are engaged, leaning in or nodding your head demonstrates you are actively listening.
7 - Make it easy for others to strike up a conversation with you. You could do this by wearing a piece of clothing which stands out (patterned shirt or bright jacket), a unique watch or striking piece of jewellery.
8 - Leave a lasting impression. Don’t simply walk away, shake someone’s hand, offer your business card or ask for theirs if appropriate and say, “lovely to meet you.”
I like to introduce myself with a solid handshake, make a compliment and follow up with a question to better know my peer. I find once I have done this, the conversation starts to flow.
Let me know what works for you.