Networking events can be a great place to meet people who will help you grow your business, but for many people, these events can be very intimidating. There are lots of strong personalities that go to these events, and if you’re a little more reserved, going up and talking to someone you don’t know can be pretty hard. However, if you want to build your network and gain valuable relationships, you’re going to have to learn how to break the ice when you attend these events.
Look, I know how tough it can be to meet someone new and to make small talk. The idea of holding a conversation with someone you don’t know can be downright scary, but that’s what networking events are all about. Simply put, you have to know how to break the ice and hold a decent conversation.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you out.
Don’t hide in the corner—First things first, you can’t be a good networker if you’re shying away from the action over in the corner. Even if you don’t know anyone there, you need to inject yourself into the action. Be proactive. Act like you belong. Pretend it’s your event and you’re the host. Say hello to people, ask them how they’re doing, ask if they’re new, and so on. Focus on the people who also look lost or intimidated and introduce yourself to them. You’ll probably have an easier time talking with someone who is also a little nervous.
Ask open-ended questions—The easiest way to break the ice and to get the conversation flowing is to simply ask questions. Most people at these events love to talk, so by sitting back and asking questions, you can guide the conversation, keep the other person engaged, and learn more about them in the process. One question often leads to another, then another, and another, and before you know it, you’ve made a good connection and built strong rapport with the person.
Keep up to date on current events—The conversations at networking events often focus on current events, and not just business-related current events. You might hear people talking about tech news, sports, world news, or even pop culture. It’s important that you try to stay up to date on current events so you can join in on these conversations. You don’t need to be an expert. You just need to know enough to hang with everyone else. Spend just a little time each day browsing the news.
Have fun—No one wants to talk to the person who looks miserable. If you’re projecting a good attitude, you’ll naturally attract others. Have some fun at these events. I’ve heard of people who will ask bizarre icebreaker questions to make the other person laugh and at the same time relax. You don’t have to be so serious and robotic, spitting out your elevator pitch to every person who walks up to you. Relax and have some fun.
What are your best tips for breaking the ice at networking events? Share with us by commenting below.