Striking up conversation with professionals online? Piece of cake.
Striking up intelligent banter at a networking event? Would rather sit silently in the corner, eating cake.
The Digital Age in all its glory has opened up a world of opportunities but has robbed us of our social skills. It’s easy to pipe up in a LinkedIn group where sweaty palms, shaky voices and flushed cheeks are camoflagued behind our laptop screens. From the security of our office chair we have time to think, time to react and time to perfect our conversations until we sound like the joke we just made didnt take 4 minutes to perfect.
We were born this hilarious.
In real life social situations, even the most seemingly confident influencers can be found hovering awkwardly by the snack table engrossed in their phones so don’t worry, we’re all on the same socially awkward boat a lot of the time. It’s not easy to approach a group of networking pros and say something intelligent, entertaining or witty right off the bat, but it is possible.
All it takes is preperation and practice so time to polish those shoes and plunge yourself in the networking mix.
Here are 6 networking tips that will help your conversations be a little less painful and a lot more positive:
Already have a networking hit list? If know who you want to approach, do a little detective work on their LinkedIn, Twitter or an online profile. Discover their interests and accomplishments; any background info that could be used to spark up conversation without revealing yourself as an obvious stalker. “There’s a great line up for the digital conference here next month, will you be attending?” (knowing full well they sponsor the event).
For your professional introductions, have a sentence or two prepared to introduce yourself and your company. This will prevent you from embarrassing yourself with unnecessary waffle. Keep it short and sweet but remember to have both a formal and informal introduction for different situations, i.e. potential client vs. friendly acquaintance so you don’t scare away those who just want to chat by acting like a door-to-door salesman.
3. Silence Breakers
Have a couple of questions on standby if a conversation loses steam and you find yourself staring at your shoes. E.g. who has been your favorite speaker so far? How did you get interested in the cardboard industry? Will you be attending any other conferences this year?
It’s good for practice to warm up your networking skills before you engage with the Big Fish. Target someone flying solo, introduce yourself and spark up a conversation to get your networking juices flowing. Chances are if they’re alone they will welcome a friendly face.
Exit conversations that are going nowhere, time is precious at these events and you’ve got an impression to make. Heart attack, coughing fit, uncontrollable laugher – the possibilities are endless.
Always leave a window open for future contact. Networking isn’t designed for pointless conversation and to part ways. Aim to make valuable connections and let them know you’d like to keep in contact in the future, e.g. “I’d love to hear how that project turns out, keep in touch”. Don’t forget to keep business cards handy to leave your mark.
Now finally and most importantly, be yourself! (or something less cliché).
Now go spread your social wings you conversational wizard, you!