3 Ways to Start a Conversation at Networking Events
Striking up conversations at networking events can often seem awkward and disingenuous. It can also be daunting and stressful. However, with the below three tips, courtesy of Charisma on Demand founder Charlie Houpert, starting conversations can not only be smooth and stress-free but also quite enjoyable.
1. Human Google
According to Houpert, this is more of a mindset than a specific line to start a conversation. What "Human Google" means here is this: Think of all things that you typically search Google for, and instead of searching for them via your phone or laptop, you ask someone else for the answer. That is, you ask a human at a networking event. This could be asking about what are the best places to eat in a certain city, how to get from a to b, what a certain accent is (where someone is from), etc. The initial question itself doesn't matter. What matters is the follow-up. And for the follow-up, you always want to be leading toward "feeling" questions, stresses Houpert. That is, you want to lead the conversation toward how someone feels about something. So, questions such as, Why do you like that restaurant? and What are your favorite things there? Once you get into feeling questions, then you have a real conversation going.
2. Human Twitter
Houpert explains that if Google is where we go to find something, Twitter is where we go to say something, to make statements. So using this as a conversation starter is simply pointing something out that's interesting to someone else. It could be something in the room of interest, or something about the temperature inside the room or outside, or something about the buffet or music. Again, the point here is not what you say initially but how you follow up; you want to get to feeling questions. Do you like the hot weather? Or do you prefer cold climates? You want to move the conversation to how a person feels. Note that an easy and stress-free way to think about this piece of advice is to simply pay attention to what's going through your mind at events; you don't have to have a prepared line or subject.
3. The Foolproof Line
Unlike the first two tips, this is a specific thing to say that you can remember and use at any event. And it works extremely well at networking events and parties where you're expected to mingle and meet people. Here's the line: "Hi, I don't think I've met you, I'm [YOUR FIRST NAME]." And then you hold out your hand for a shake. Again, once you do shake hands and start talking, drive the conversation toward how a person feels.
For more details on the above tips, check out Houpert's great seven-minute video on starting conversations below.