Networking events are great ways to learn about new opportunities, make important connections and grow professionally.
But for many people, they’re intimidating – primarily because you don’t know what to say, or how to start a conversation, especially if you don’t know anyone else in the room.
Remember, the goal is for both of you to talk about yourselves and get to know each other. And if you ask the standard “what do you do” question, you’ll get a canned response. So here are some ideas from ProStaff, Top Resume and Business Insider that can help you creatively break the ice.
There are some general questions that will serve you well at a networking – or any – event, and they’re easy to remember:
- Is this your first time attending?
- I love that (necklace, piece of jewelry, tie, shoes, watch) – where did you get it?
- What brings you here tonight?
- Have you eaten yet? What do you recommend I try?
- This is a great event – do you know of others I could attend?
These types of questions are good when approaching someone you don’t know and they allow you to develop the conversation further.
Ask for help
Another way to start a conversation is by asking for help or assistance.
- Do you know what this dish is? It looks delicious!
- I’d like to try a new (drink or dish) tonight. What’s your favorite?
- I told myself I’d meet five new people tonight. Do you mind helping me out by being one of them?
- I’ve never been to this event before. Do you have any tips you could offer on what to expect?
News and Trivia
- Did you see the game last night? (Be sure you actually saw the game and have at least one aspect of it to discuss, or say you didn’t see it and ask what the outcome was.)
- Interesting facts about the city or building you’re in: Did you know that …?
- Weird news (like the alligator climbing a fence) or National Taco Day
- New TV shows or streaming series
Sports news is usually safe – stay away from political news, crime and tragedy.
Wikipedia, Huffington Post and NPR all have sections on their websites of strange or weird news. You can check them out prior to the event and have plenty to talk about.
Additionally, each day, week and month usually has a designation, commemorating everything from food to illnesses. Pick a food or something else on the lighter side for a good conversation starter.
Out of the box
Unusual questions are often a good way to start, but you should remember to be professional and stay away from touchy subjects like politics and religion.
- What’s your guilty-pleasure song? Mine’s …
- Have you ever bungee jumped off a bridge?
- Have you even been on a hot air balloon ride?
- What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
In fact, if you’ve done something fun lately, you can put it on your name tag. People will see it and ask you about it, giving them the perfect opener. But remember, it should be something fun – not embarrassing.
Remember to get business cards from everyone you meet and take a moment to make a note as to what you talked about.
And don’t forget to smile! You can’t help but look friendly when you’re smiling.
Also, if you got an interview for a great job, check out our helpful pre-interview guide so you are as prepared as you can be!