Networking is easy for some people, but for introverts, it can be unbearable.
The great news is if you're an introvert, you have a superpower that not many possess. You're more than happy to let someone else do all the talking because it means that the spotlight is off of you!
And guess what? People LOVE talking about themselves. In fact, studies have shown that people will rate a conversation as more enjoyable if they did a majority of the talking.
So you’re probably thinking, “Yeah that’s great and all, but how do I initiate the conversation to begin with?”
Here’s my top 5 conversation starters
If you're both eating, strike up a conversation by asking if the food is any good. If they have a particular dish, find out what it is and how they like it. You can go a step further and say “If you like (insert dish), you’ve gotta try the one at (insert restaurant). This will hopefully get you down a path where you can talk all things food. Then you say, "I’m (insert name) by the way." and go in for a handshake. Then they will tell you their name. Then you ask them what they do for a living? This should get them talking about that. Then you can ask all the questions you want. And if anyone walks up, you can say “We were just talking about our favorite (insert food item). Got any restaurants you can recommend for that?"
If there is alcohol, ask them what they are drinking if they have a drink in hand. After they tell you, ask them if that is what they normally drink. If it isn’t, ask them what their drink of choice is. Then you can ask who makes the best one (restaurant/bar that is). That should get the convo flowing.
“You look familiar?”
This opener works even if you know you’ve never met. Simply walk up to someone and say “Hi. You look familiar, what’s your name?” Then follow up with “I can’t remember where we may have met, but my name is (insert name). Then, to try and connect the dots, you have tons of questions to ask. What organizations are you a part of? Where have you worked? Where did you go to school? Who’s ya mom and dem? to see if you can “figure out” who they are. Then you can just pick one and say “Aaah, that might be where I know you from.” Then you can go into the “so what do you do for a living?” routine and ask them more questions about the info you just gathered.
If it’s summer, asking if they have any travel plans. Then what their favorite vacation spot is. Then you share yours. Then maybe some travel tips, best time of year to go, bucket list trip, etc.
If you know the event organizer, approach them and say “hoping to network a bit tonight, who should I talk to?” Then they will point someone out. Then you can ask if they can introduce you. Then you have someone as a buffer to add to the conversation. And if you three talk for long enough, others will join the conversation. Then use all the tips from above. Another approach is if you know exactly who you want to talk to, you can say “Is that so-and-so?”. Your organizer friend will say “Yes.” because they know everyone there. Then you say, “I thought so. It’s funny, I see him/her at other events, but we’ve never met.” That should prompt the organizer to introduce you. And if it doesn’t, ask for an introduction.
If you can get someone to talk about their children or animals, you are golden. Even better, if you have some of your own, you can relate to some of their stories.
Bonus Bonus Tip
Always end the conversation with, “Nice meeting you. Let me know if you ever need anything.” Now you’ve become an asset.
That’s it. If you see me at an event, try one of these out on me. But I must warn you, I too like to ask A LOT of questions, especially if you own a business or have a side hustle. I just can’t help myself.
Remember, the one who asks the questions controls the conversation. I hope I’ve helped you take control of your networking.