Making the decision to register for a networking event can be the first step into moving outside of your comfort zone, but the battle doesn’t stop there. Actually showing up and networking with your fellow industry professionals is the next big step.
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, networking doesn’t always come easy to everyone – it can make people feel stressed out, anxious, and self-conscious. What you have to remember is that everyone in the room is likely experiencing the same feelings and the unknown is always there in everyone’s minds.
Breaking the ice can be challenging but it doesn’t always have to be, here are some tips and tricks on how to break the ice with unconventional conversation starters:
- Vacation plans: People who love to travel enjoy sharing their experiences about their upcoming vacation plans or most recent vacation adventures. This will encourage the person to open up and give you the ability to connect more on a personal level.
- “Do you have any upcoming vacations planned?”
- “Did you just get back from any fun trips or vacations?”
- Upcoming work related event: People may like to talk about the big projects they are working on during their everyday work. You might find a commonality in their type of event, location, target audience, contacts, and/or venue.
- “When is your next event, conference, meeting, and/or program? Where is it being held?”
- Hobbies: You may not know much about the person you are networking with but when they share their hobbies you might find something in common.
- “What do you like to do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?”
- Why they are here: Everyone has their own reason to attend a networking event, why not ask them what their reason is.
- “What drew you to register and attend today’s event?”
- Involvement in the meeting industry: The Meeting Industry has a lot of professionals who might be a part of different organization that they may also volunteer within. Get to know the person by asking them how else they are involved in the industry.
- “How long have you been a member of MPI, PCMA, and/or CSAE?”
- “Do you volunteer on any committees with MPI, PCMA, and/or CSAE?”
- Attire: If you like someone’s outfit, tell them! Don’t be afraid to compliment someone in a sincere way.
- For the ladies: “I love your dress, where did you buy it? I am looking for something like that for an upcoming event I am attending.”
- For the gentlemen: “I like the design on your tie, where did you buy it? I am looking for something like that for an upcoming event I am attending.”
- Food: In the Meeting Industry trying the food at a networking event can fall under professional development. Why not discuss the food to spark up a conversation?
- “This beef taste delicious; can you tell what type of spice is on it?”
- Beverage: In the Meeting Industry trying speciality drinks is part of the business. Being able to identify what you like or dislike about a drink can help you better select drink menus for your events.
- “This signature drink is refreshing; do you know what type of liquor is in the drink?
No one wants to spend an entire evening talking about the weather, so try these non-traditional conversation starters at your next networking event! You might just find out that you have something in common with someone you are networking with; they will more likely remember you at the next networking event. The goal is to have meaningful and memorable conversations so that you feel the value of your time spent attending a networking event!
Article Written By Angelita Aboukassam, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Article edited By Rozanne Lyons, CMP, Intertask Conferences
This article was originally published on MPI Ottawa's Conventus website on May 29, 2017.