Do you love going to events, but find yourself stranded during happy hour, tongue-tied and tucked in a corner? Initiating and maintaining conversations while networking is a necessary skill, and one you can easily improve with these simple tips.
When looking for a conversation partner, look for:
—Fun, inviting groups
—White-knuckled loners who look uncomfortable and will welcome your attempt to initiate dialogue
Questions to get the conversations flowing:
"What’s your connection to the event?"This question can uncover mutual contacts and usually leads to a more robust answer than if you asked the typical “Have you been to this event before?”
"What’s keeping you busy when you’re not at events like this or at work?" This question gives the encouragement necessary for the person to share his/her passions and outside interests. It is an excellent way to add some enthusiasm into a conversation that has hit a lull, especially if he/she would prefer to be doing that activity at that moment.
"Are you getting away this summer?" This question can lead to conversations about family, reveal special interests and, if you like talking about travel, it’s a sure-fire way to keep a conversation interesting.
"Are you working on any charity initiatives?" This question makes it easy to launch into a deeper connection. If they’re not involved with any projects, they often share reasons which is usually revealing, and if they are doing something of value they will be more than happy to share.
"How did you come to be in your line of work?" For some, the path to where they are today can be quite an interesting ordeal. Having a chance to revisit their story to success can leave helpful clues along the way as to who they are and what makes them tick.
Ideally small talk will uncover common interests, business alignments, the six degrees that separate you, potential need for your product or service, and basically whether or not you enjoy each other’s company.
The goal of conversation at functions is to establish enough common ground to determine a reason to connect again.
[Image: Flickr user Aquila]