If you really want to be effective at networking, it is critical to get into as many conversations as possible when at networking events. Here are a few tips that can help you to operate at an optimum level in this area.

1. Get to the event early
Whether we are going to a networking event or a social event, our natural instinct is to be fashionable late. We feel like it is best to not be the first one to walk through the door.

To get the most out the event, ignore this thought and try to be at the event as close to the start time as possible. This will be helpful for a few reasons. First, since everybody else is following the instinct to be a little late, there is a chance you might be one of the first few people there. If this is the case, this is a really good thing as it is much easier to meet people and when the event is less crowded as there is less competition and there are less existing conversations going on.

You can also engage with new contacts as they arrive at the event. This can actually allow you to take on a host role since you are established at the event and they are walking in new and maybe a little nervous (or at least not real warmed up from a networking mode standpoint).

If you can get around and meet a lot of people during the early period of the event when the traffic is light, you will then know a good handful of people and then be able to reengage with those contacts when the event is busy. Having these new contacts spread across the event will make it easier to break into established conversations.

2. Talk to the people that are standing alone
When trying to working your way into a conversation at a networking event, the low hanging fruit is to start conversations with people that are just standing there not talking to anybody. The approach here is to walk right up and stick your hand out for a handshake and say:

Hi, how are you doing?
I am [your name]. (hand extended for handshake)
[They respond with their name] What do you do? (or) Who are you with?

From there, you will be likely get established into some sort of conversation. But be aware that the reason that they are not talking to someone is that they are a little uncomfortable and they might not have the social skills needed for the networking environment.

This is why they are not in a conversation with someone else. This is OK, but you may find yourself in a one-sided conversation and you just need to know why and be prepared for that.

3. Linger around the refueling stations
When you first arrive to a networking event or if you are struggling to find a conversation, one thing you can do is go to the areas where there are beverages being served. This is a good place to find a new conversation as they are high traffic areas and when people go to them, they are usually alone or not in the middle of a conversation.

If you need a refreshment, you can jump in line and at some point during the process, you can begin a conversation with the person behind you. If you don’t happen to need anything, that is OK and you can just go and linger in the general area.

Usually right after some fills up their coffee or gets a drink from the bar, there is a brief moment where they collect themselves or take a sip of their drink. This is a good opportunity for you to walk right up and say:

Hi, how are you doing?
I am [your name]. (hand extended for handshake)
[They respond with their name] What do you do? (or) Who are you with?

>> How to Get Into a Conversation When Networking (Part II) >>

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