A few days ago, I shared my three top tips on how to make the most of networking for your career. But it’s all very well knowing which event to attend, and knowing what you want to get out of it, but how the hell do you do the actual networking bit. Sure, it’s not enough to just turn up and wait for magic to happen. (Nice though that would be).
Some networking events follow a specific format. But for most women in the City, often your networking takes place at the in-house drinks or at an industry conference. Just how do you walk up to someone you don’t know and start a conversation.
You’ll be pleased to know that it’s easier than you might think. People are very unlikely to turn away or walk off. Yes it happens, but that’s about them not you. Most people will be relieved that somebody else started the conversation.
The simplest way to start a conversation at networking events
First make eye contact.
Extend your hand.
“Hello I’m Sherry. Nice to meet you“.
More advanced ways to start a conversation
Now that you have made the first approach, here are a few more suggestions to get the conversation started. Remember you are there to listen, learn and be of service.
- What’s your interest in [topic of conference]?
- Which of the speakers have you enjoyed so far?
- What has sparked your curiosity from this morning’s session?
- What prompted you to come along today?
- How did you hear about the event?
- Is this your first time at one of these events?
- What’s your background?
- What interesting clients / projects / research is in the pipeline for you/your department?
- Tell me what you’re working on currently.
- It’s busy here. I wasn’t sure what to expect. How does the evening usually work?
And when you’re ready to move on from the conversation
- I’ve enjoyed our discussion on [topic]. I promised myself I’d meet 5 new people tonight and I’m going to circulate a little more.
- I’m going to get myself a drink / get some food now the queue’s died down a little.
- Thanks for chatting. I’ve just spotted a colleague over there I’d love to catch up with. Do excuse me.
- Have you met Andrea? I believe she works in a similar field to you. [Bringing somebody else into the conversation for you to slide out].
- I’d love to continue our conversation over a coffee. I would love to exchange cards/contact details/connect on LinkedIn so we can catch up again soon.
More fabulous resources on how to enjoy networking
Networking doesn’t need to feel awkward. As an introvert myself, I do sometimes find it hard to maintain the energy in a crowded noisy room. However even introverts can enjoy networking when it’s done in a way that suits you.
For more top tips on networking, listen to this fabulous interview with Heather White, Networking Expert.
Not sure ‘where’ to network, check out my women’s networking directory.
Over to you … which question will you try out next time you want to start a conversation at a networking event?
p.s. you might have noticed that networking has been a theme for me this month. That’s because I’m launching my own networking event, City Conversations: Leading Women in the City Through Connection, Collaboration and Growth.
I’d love you to join me at the launch on Wednesday 29 November. Click <<HERE>> to find out more.