4 Ways To Break The Ice At Networking Events
If you’ve never been to a networking event before, it can be a daunting if not downright scary process. Stepping into a room full of chattering business people, it’s easy for your mind to go blank and not be sure what to say. It’s happened to all of us at some point or another – I even forgot what I did the first time I walked into an event! But while it does get much easier as time goes on and you network more, it can be difficult to get past that initial barrier. To give you a helping hand and ease you into networking, here are our 4 best icebreakers to get the conversation flowing and help you feel more relaxed.
Hi, I’m X
It sounds so simple it’s stupid, but it honestly works. Everyone at a networking meeting has been the ‘new person’ before, and you might even run into a few other first timers while you’re there. A smile, a name and a confident handshake can sometimes go a long way, and if you’re not sure what to do next, let the other person guide the conversation. Mentioning that it’s your first time is also a good tactic, as the other person will immediately start looking around the room for people to introduce you to and support you in starting conversations with them.
What Do You Do?
If you’re not quite ready to talk about yourself yet, your best bet is to get someone talking about themselves instead. Luckily this is very easy – human beings take very little prompting and are often happiest when talking about themselves. That’s not meant to sound derogatory, it’s just the way our minds work. So you can start out by asking someone what they do, paying them a compliment (I love your hair/shoes/watch, etc) or by asking them about something you have overheard them saying. For example, if you have been pouring yourself a coffee and overhear someone talking about their volunteer work, you can ask that person what volunteer work it is that they do. This is a safe approach that will often initiate a back and forth of questions that’s just like any other conversation, without all the intimidating ‘networky’ bits.
Do You Have Any Insights About X?
If you’re really struggling to find things to talk about, asking someone for their advice or opinion is a great way to break the tension and start a meaningful conversation. Asking people to share their expertise in order to help you will make them feel good, and encourage them to be open to connecting with you. You can ask them about anything, from work projects to what car you should buy next. Just make sure that you actually listen to and reflect on their advice, and don’t just respond with something vague – this will defeat the point of asking the question.
What Did You Think Of The Speaker?
For any networking event with a guest speaker or even a spotlight on a member, this question is a sure fire conversation starter. Conversations tend to flow best around shared experiences, so bringing up something that you know you both have in common is a great start. If there has been no speaker, try and pick something else noteworthy in the event to talk about. Some common ones would be:
- A certain person’s 60 second pitch
- The theme of the group discussion
- The format of the meeting
- The food
Of course, there are thousands of icebreakers out there, and most of them will work in a networking setting. However, there are certain areas it’s best to avoid in a professional meeting. Divisive topics like politics will often be met with either cold disinterest and boredom or passionate zeal – neither of which are great within a networking group. TV and movies is also one that, while it might prompt a passing conversation, tends to peter out quite quickly and can result in an awkward silence if the person you’re talking to hasn’t seen the show.
The important thing to remember about your first networking event is that everyone has been where you are, and everyone knows how scary it is. Most people will be kind, friendly and open to conversation, otherwise they wouldn’t be at the event in the first place! All you really need to do is smile and be open, and the networking will happen by itself. Just remember to prepare yourself for those icebreakers and you should enjoy your time at the event. Introduce yourself to the host and tell them if it is your first time, they will understand and happily introduce to a member of the group. For more advice, or to dip your toe into the networking water with a group of lovely supportive women, get in touch with us today.