Entrepreneurs and professionals are increasingly recognizing the need for networking for both their businesses and for their careers. Here, networking implies the process of creating and nurturing relationships with others. By working on these relationships, you get to develop a platform for collecting and sharing information that can be useful in meeting professional and personal goals. Through your networks, you learn about opportunities and get referrals since networking is an amazing way to make yourself marketable to prospective employers.
Starting to network can be a scary undertaking, somewhat like being on the first date. You may be starting a conversation with a complete stranger, or with someone you have met have never actively engaged. Just like in the first date, starting this type of communication can be awkward. The key here is to try to be as bold as possible and strike a memorable first impression. Even then you will still need some tips on how to break the ice and start the conversation. In this article, we have gathered 11 conversation starters to get you going.
Let the other person know that you are interested in them and their work
“I was really impressed by your latest blog/publication/speech.”
This is the most appropriate for an individual with whom you have never met, but have read their article or blog. By commending their work, you show interest in what they say and do and suggest that you may have similar interests and ideas. This also lets the other person know that you are familiar with their line of work.
Consider casual conversation starters like talking about your common interests
Supposing you can access the guest list, identify some guests with whom you share interests. Once you have done some background check on a contact, you could highlight the common interests or experiences you may have had. Or you could just state:
“Oh my God! We share so much in common!”
You could then proceed to highlight the areas of commonality between the two of you. The simple opening line will give you a ton of topics for your conversation henceforth.
“I saw you at the fundraiser for… last week. Too bad I had to leave early. How did it go?”
Approaching networking as a process, rather than as an event can give you great lines
Another important piece of advice is not to treat the networking a one-off interaction. Networking is a process of multiple interactions and working to build the relationship. As such it helps to let the other person know that you are interested in engaging them beyond the current event. For instance, you could say:
“I really liked your arguments on… Can I inquire about your other works?”
This line demonstrates that you are curious and genuinely interested in engaging with the person. If possible, conduct some background research on the individual prior to the encounter. This will give you some content to base your interaction after the icebreaker conversations.
You could also suggest some activity to keep the communication going with your contact. You could say, for instance:
“There is this amazing publication you need to read. I can’t recall the title right now, but once I get home, I can send you the link.”
Remember that networking is all about keeping in touch. Those who go silent run the risk of being forgotten. If you have had the chance of meeting the contact before, you could say:
“I remember meeting recently at the… seminar, though we didn’t get the chance to talk.”
Following up on a previous event can give you something to talk about.
If you wonder how to start a conversation at a career fair such lines might be useful for you:
“I saw you’re looking for a marketing manager for your new project. I’m a project manager with 5 years of experience in the field, and currently am looking for a career shift. Maybe you can tell me more about current openings at your company?”
“I interesting in your … opening, and would like to know more about your xxx department? Is it possible to arrange a meeting with your company’s representative?”
Your main goal is to ask questions and listen.
Be conscious of the fact that you could be interrupting something
There are diverse ways to start a conversation. For instance, such situation might be a usual deal for ladies in the line:
“Have you ever wondered how many hours in life we waste by standing in the bathroom queue?”
You are not looking to derail the ongoing conversation. With this simple question, you invite yourself into the conversation. Once you are told what you are not interrupting, you get the chance to respond and contribute to the conversation. And just like that, you start an easy going talk.
Impress your contact by being well-informed on current events
Another way of breaking an awkward conversation is by starting a discussion on topics that you are well versed in. Conduct research on current events relating to your industry as well as other interesting ongoing activities. Knowing right questions to ask at a networking event can be a good conversation starter. For instance:
“Have you been following the media coverage on…? What an unfortunate series of events!”
Alternatively, ask leading questions to keep a conversation going.
“How do you think the recent bill on … will affect investment in …?”
If still unsure, talk about general things like the weather or food
Food and weather are safe conversation tips. If there is one pick-up line that never disappoints regardless of the situation, then it is the weather debate. Whether you choose to discuss the rains or the heat, you can never miss something to get your conversation started. You could opt for any other general and easy topics to talk about.
“I hope the rains give us a break next week. I have a trip planned that involves hiking.”
Or you could rant about the traffic.
“With the kind of traffic in the city these days, we may end up spending most working hours on the road.”
As you consider which pickup line to use, remember to consider other factors like gender, profession, and seniority. Most importantly, good conversation starters are bold and don’t shy from trying something new, as long as it remains formal and decent.
As shown here, there are many different ways to start a conversation. Please remember that these pickup lines are mere suggestions to get you started. Be creative and go with whatever feels right. In addition, consider that after you have broken through the barrier, you still need to make and sustain a conversation that would lead to future contact. Look for ways to stay in touch and work on your networks. First and foremost, get out of your comfort zone and start networking.