BYE BYE I never know what to say. Hello Fun Conversationalist
I have been organising networking events in Beijing since March 2007 and I frequently meet people who say I would love to attend your events, I am dying to meet new people but I never know what to say. I feel so awkward. Everyone else is bubbling with charm, wit and confidence and I am always so tongue tied.
This being so I have put together some tips and tricks to help people overcome this fear.
I’m an introvert, I am shy,
Teach me how to say hi.
FACT ONE: – Everyone attending a networking event is there to meet new people. A networking event is not the same as walking into a bar and trying to enter into a conversation with a pre-exisiting close knit group of friends. Everyone at the networking event wants to meet you.
FACT TWO: – At any networking evening there will be a mix of regular attendees and first timers. They all have one thing in common with you they too want to meet new people, they want to meet you.
FACT THREE: – A networking event has a host/organiser. A good networking event host/organiser helps people connect. The host/organiser is there to help you meet new people. He/She wants you hear from you how he/she can help you and will be more than happy to introduce you to other people because all the attendees want to meet you.
FACT FOUR: – Networking is not rocket science. Networking is an art, be not afraid to start.
But what can I talk about? How can I start the conversation?
The truth of the matter is that there are a large number of conversation”ice-breaker” topics that can be utilised. Remember, everyone there wants to meet you so almost any topic can be used but having said that avoid sensitive subjects … Don’t start a conversation with Politics, Religion, Complaints, Ridicule.
Start the conversation with something positive (or neutral) – anything that can be construed as a compliment or request for local informational help is normally a good starting point.
A compliment about a necklace of cufflinks can often starts a conversation about it – yes it was inherited from my Grandma or it’s just something I found in a market when I was on holiday in …
It’s my wife’s birthday in a couple of weeks can you recommend a good restaurant.
This is my first time at one of these events, are you a regular attendee? Yes – you can start by asking about the previous event(s) he/she attended. No – how did you hear of this event, do you know anyone else here etc.
NOT JUST FOR BRITS – topics like the weather and travel time to get to the event are also very easy neutral topics that can start a conversation. Weather can lead on to a discussion about holiday/weekend plans. Travel time can lead on to discussions about the pro & cons of public transport, environment, preferred mode of transport etc.
THE VENUE – talk about the venue is another nice safe conversation starter – the quality of the food, drink, decor, ease of access, room temperature (too hot/cold) are all topics that you have in common with everyone at the event.
In other words there’s nothing to be afraid of. Everyone at the event is there for the same reason, to meet new people, to meet you. No one will cold shoulder you even if you simply walk up, smile and say “Hi, My name is …… Nice to meet you”. In fact, the opposite is true they may well be relieved that someone else has taken the initiative and broken the ice and started the conversation.
Do though avoid starting with a joke.
Humour differs from culture to culture (even if they both speak the same language) and you might end-up either having to apologise or in explaining references and/or implied concepts.
A. Do you think I weigh enough to be a Polar Bear?
B. No, why?
A. I was hoping I weigh enough to break the ice …..
Funny? Not funny? Maybe depends on who is telling it to whom and how it is told.
I hope this article was helpful and look forward to seeing you at our next networking event which is of course on Tuesday, because if it is Tuesday it is FCGroupday.
6 June 2016
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