When you attend a lecture, conference, or trade show, do you feel comfortable starting conversations with the strangers around you? It’s not an easy thing to do, even for native speakers. Talking to people is an important business skill because meeting new people and making connections helps grow your personal network, which eventually gives you more opportunities to grow your business.
The examples below are four REAL conversation openers overheard at networking events:
1) ASK TO SHARE A TABLE
Walk up to someone sitting at a table and ask if you can sit next to her. This works every time–unless the seat is being saved, but if that’s the case, just find another table.
2) ASK IF IT’S HIS FIRST TIME AT THIS EVENT
When you’re standing near someone and he isn’t talking to anyone, ask him if he’s ever been to this kind of event, if he’s ever heard this speaker, or if he’s ever been to this event space.
3) ASK IF SHE IS A MEMBER OF THE ORGANIZATION
If you find out that you are both members of the organization, you will have found something that you have in common. You can talk about past events. If the person you are talking to is a member and you are not, you can ask about the benefits of being a member.
4) COMMENT ON THE FOOD OR DRINKS
If you are eating or drinking near someone, you might start a conversation by commenting on the food. (Keep it positive, though.) Or, you might ask someone sitting at your table if he would like a refill of his beverage. This small talk can lead you into a more interesting conversation.
Small talk conversations at a business event do not have to be business exchanges or elevator pitches. Networking isn’t always about making a sale. Networking is about meeting people, being helpful, and making connections. Don’t be shy, and just remember that most people feel nervous when talking with people they don’t know, so make them comfortable.