Networking is a great way to foster relationships with leaders in your industry. It can also help uncover passive candidates. Striking up a conversation at an industry event, conference, or local networking group can open a world of potential for your organization.
The first step to networking is to approach a new person or a group of people. This can be the scariest step in the whole process. Even the most confident person can become intimidated when encountering the unknown.
Take a deep breath and walk up to the person you would like to engage in conversation. If the person is not already engaged, politely introduce yourself and shake their hand. Remembering that person’s name is key. The easiest way to do so is to repeat their name, “Joe, it is very nice to meet you.”
The best conversation starter after exchanging introductions is to ask a question. “What brought you here?”, “Have you been here before?”, “How do you know the host?”, or “What would you recommend at the bar?” Utilize the setting to frame your first questions. This will break the ice and help both you and the person you are speaking with feeling more comfortable.
Make certain that you give the person your complete attention. Stimulate the conversation by adding input, without “one-upping” the person. Redirect the conversation to yourself by offering a compliment or your thoughts. Then redirect back to the other person by asking a question.
Pauses in the conversation are natural. Do not try to fill them with sounds such as “un” or “ah”. Even though the word “like” is used in many ways, it should never be used as space-filler within your statements. Avoid using these fillers by taking a deep breath while you collect your thoughts.
The key to approaching anyone is showing confidence with a handshake and remembering their name. After you have broken the ice, you can begin asking questions, but always be aware of how you are received. The one you are speaking with should never feel like he is being interrogated. The goal is to create a quick bond that will make both you and your conversational partner feel comfortable.