I know breaking into a conversation is easier said than done, but I hope to make it easier by giving you some valuable insight. I personally love networking, may it be during a social event or a business event, the fact that there is an opportunity to meet somebody new is beneficial enough to warrant networking. In this post, we’re going to discuss business networking.
Network meetings, however, do come with their own difficult issues which can make you either very uncomfortable or worse, ignorant of your surrounding space. Most people who attend network meetings are probably in a similar behavioural mindset to each other. Meaning, attend the meeting, meet and greet, exchange business cards, and hopefully, do some business.
Easier said than done, right? Well, here are some ideas on how to break into a conversation at a network meeting.
One of the most difficult things you’ll ever do is walk up to an unknown person and strike up a conversation. At least, that’s what you might think. However, if it’s one person, it’s by far the easier configurations to start up a conversation with. They are on their own probably because they feel slightly uncomfortable or don’t know any of the new faces and so, by you approaching them not only will that be welcoming, but the person will appreciate and remember you for the extra effort you put in by making them feel at ease.
A two person situation is slightly different and can be a difficult configuration to break into. By this I mean, a more intelligent judgement needs to be applied to the situation by observing their body language and hand gestures. Observe the pair before interjecting into their conversation.
If the pair are ’open networking’, meaning close together but facing openly to the rest of the room they are indeed ready to engage in conversation with other people. You may walk up to the pair with a smile and say hello.
Do not attempt to approach the pair if they are face to face and in deep conversation. You will know they are in deep conversation by their 100% focus on the conversation at hand rather than looking over the shoulder or starring out into the room. The other sure tell sign to not approach is when you see the pair immersed in a conversation, standing close together and facing away from the open room whereby you get no eye contact and no real feeling of invitation. The third reason you wouldn’t want to approach, or if you did, approach with caution is if you see the pair talking on the outer peripheral of the room. By this, you will know they are subconsciously disjointing themselves from the rest of the room.
Still on the pairing conversation rules – If you’re a regular networker at one of your business network groups, you may find someone you know well conversing with someone whom you don’t know. So what can you do?
It goes without saying, although you may know one of them, you don’t approach the pair if they are in deep conversation. Refrain from even trying to get acknowledgement from the person you know as your chance to converse with the respective person will come later. If the colleague you know glances over and acknowledges you then you may do the same as this might indicate an invitation to join them.
Entering a three way conversation or three people group, I would say is just as easy as approaching an individual. At least for me. For one thing, you are probably not going to interrupt by approaching them and secondly, they are most likely open to networking with other professions.
However, you still got to be cautious when joining. Don’t just walk in on an ongoing conversation, but instead wait for a break and then approach. This is beneficial for two reasons; firstly, not having to join in on a discussion that you may not be knowledgable about and secondly, the introductions are more likely to be focused and uninterrupted.
When you move into groups of four or more, it is highly unlikely that they are having a private conversation and so, it is much easier to join larger groups. So, we know the benefit of a larger group is the fact that they are easier join, but there also comes a negative… it’s much more difficult to get to know each person really well in comparison to networking with individuals or pairs.
There is another benefit to joining and conversing in larger groups. You get to scope out the people you want to talk to in the coming weeks and at the same time, you also get the opportunity to make yourself visible in front of many people instantly.
An aspect of larger groups is that you may not get to connect with everyone in that circle, but don’t worry, you will get to meet them over time during your attendance.
It doesn’t matter what kind of network group you attend, the likelihood of such formations above will occur and you will need to persevere in order to make yourself known within the group. At each instance, prioritise your entry point and be aware of how you conduct yourself so as not to steal the limelight or reflect a negative complex. Above all, be proactive, be a good listener and have fun!
Can you share other tips and tricks you have experienced during networking? Perhaps, you have a fantastic entry line that gets your conversations going?