Networking events can be daunting. It’s walking into a room where (hopefully) there is a lot of new faces. We are all there to make connections yet we all become a little trigger shy when it comes to striking up a conversation.
1. Have A Wingman (or Lady).
It doesn’t need to be your spouse or business partner. Bring someone else you know that may benefit from the event. Strength in number always works. Just don’t get caught up in your companion that you don’t approach anyone new. The whole point of bringing them along was to make it easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger.
2. Inquire About Their Drink
If you are at a mixer with..well…mixed drinks start the conversation off by asking the person what they are drinking. This opens up an avenue of discussion. “Oh I love that wine. What is your go to brand?” “I’ve never heard of that drink, what’s in it?” (I use this one if I am still trying to crack the egg even if I know what the drink is.)
3. Comment On The Food
Everyone loves food. Food is a great source of conversation because of that. When I walk up to someone I may size up what is on their plate (or cocktail napkin). If I find something interesting that I can spin in a positive way I start the conversation there. “Oh it’s nice to meet a fellow spicy food enthusiast.” (This would never come out of my mouth by the way because I am a spice wimp.) “I can can never pass up a slice of cheesecake myself.”
4. Ask “What brings you to the event?”
Asking this question is a great premier question if you want to just dive right in. In most cases their answer can lead to another point of conversation. They may say a friend brought them here, you can reply with “Who is the person who persuaded you to come?” They may answer with what they want out of the event “I’m looking to meet an attorney who can help me legally insulate my properties.” You can follow this up by inquiring what they mean, or if you have a connection informing them you may able to help. If you are responsible for connecting someone with what they are seeking, they will not forget it and will look for ways to return the favor.
5. Comment On Their Cell Phone
Technology is a great conversation starter now days. If you see a person’s phone is out on the table you can comment on it. “Is that the S9 [or latest Iphone]?” Then extend the conversation by saying “I want to upgrade to that next. Is there anything you wish they had done differently with it?” Commenting on unique phone cases are awesome conversation starters even if it is as simple as asking “Where did you get that phone case?” The tried and true question is “What apps do you use?”
6. Pay Attention To Their Name Tag
If there are name tags, there are many ways to utilize these to your advantage. Comment on a unique first name or spelling. If their company name is familiar, “I’ve seen your company name around town a lot.” If their hometown is listed, think of a comment you have on the area. If someone is from Lake Geneva, I may comment how I love all the locally shops owned shops or really love Sprecher’s Restaurant. Be sure your comment is localized enough to the area. You don’t want to say “I love Perkins. You have one in Appleton don’t you?” Show your knowledge of their hometown.
7. Comment On The Venue
If all else fails comment on the venue. If you notice someone is rubbing their arms or has their winter hat on, “The venue is nice but I wish they would turn up the heat a little.” Comment on the light fixtures or other decor. I love using rather off the wall statements like “I wish I could have that fountain in my living room.” The unexpected comments are intriguing and often serve as a good ice breaker.