As an experienced business owner, I can tell you that networking events can be a valuable tool for building connections and expanding your professional network. However, the thought of approaching and starting a conversation with a complete stranger can be intimidating for many people, even seasoned professionals. In this article, I’ll share some tips on how to approach and start a conversation with a stranger at a networking event.
- Do Your Research
Before attending a networking event, do some research on the attendees and the event itself. Most events will have a list of attendees that you can review ahead of time. Take the time to identify a few people that you would like to meet and learn about their business and background. This research will give you some talking points and help you feel more confident approaching someone.
- Prepare Your Introduction
The first impression is critical when meeting someone new, especially at a networking event. Your introduction should be brief and to the point. Introduce yourself, state your name, and briefly describe what you do. You want to give the other person a clear understanding of who you are and what you do.
- Approach with Confidence
Approaching someone you don’t know can be nerve-wracking, but it’s essential to approach confidently. Stand tall, make eye contact, and smile. Confidence is contagious and will make the other person feel more comfortable speaking with you.
- Start with Small Talk
Small talk is an excellent way to break the ice and get to know someone new. You can start by asking them how they heard about the event or what they think of the venue. You can also ask them about their job or their business. Keep the conversation light and casual, and don’t be afraid to share a little bit about yourself as well.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions
As the conversation progresses, ask open-ended questions to keep the discussion flowing. Open-ended questions are those that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. These questions will help you get to know the other person better and keep the conversation engaging. For example, instead of asking, “Do you like your job?” ask, “What do you enjoy most about your job?”
- Listen Attentively
One of the most critical skills in networking is listening. Pay attention to what the other person is saying, and show genuine interest in what they have to say. Don’t interrupt them or be distracted by your surroundings. Listening attentively will make the other person feel valued and appreciated.
- Find Common Ground
Finding common ground with someone can help create a stronger connection. Look for shared interests, experiences, or backgrounds. You can also find common ground by discussing current events, industry news, or trends. The more you have in common, the easier it will be to continue the conversation.
- Be Respectful of Their Time
Remember that everyone attending a networking event has limited time to meet new people. Be respectful of their time, and don’t monopolize the conversation. If the conversation is going well, you can always suggest meeting for coffee or lunch at a later date to continue the discussion.
- Follow Up
After the event, be sure to follow up with the people you met. Send them an email or a LinkedIn message, thanking them for the conversation and reiterating any plans you made to meet again. Following up will help solidify the connection you made and keep the conversation going.
In conclusion, approaching and starting a conversation with a stranger at a networking event can be intimidating, but it’s an essential skill for building your professional network. By doing your research, preparing your introduction, approaching with confidence, starting with small talk, asking open-ended questions, listening attentively, finding common ground, being respectful of their time, and following up.
At the Strategic Alliance Network, we help you develop your networking skills and have weekly events for you to attend for free so you can make the available connections you and your business need to grow.