1. Talk about the food. The one common element in the room at a networking event will be the food and refreshments. Talk about how great the finger foods are, or ask someone if an item is any good and worth trying. This is a good way to start a conversation that can easily be opened up by talking about other aspects about the event.
2. Be direct. If there is someone at the event that you already know a little about, don't be afraid to just walk up to them and introduce yourself. Maybe this person wrote an article you found interesting, or perhaps they just gave a speech at the event. Introduce yourself, and mention what it was that sparked your interest about him or her.
3. Use the name tags. If you are organizing the event, try to make the name tags a little more interesting. Aside from just having people fill in their names, get them to ask a silly question, like what superpower they would choose or what act they would perform in the circus. This is a great way for people to break the ice with each other at an event and serves as a great conversation starter.
4. Be blunt. Simply ask why the other person wanted to come to this event. Find out what brought them there, but be genuinely engaged and sincere in your curiosity. This will also help you weed out those that aren't really interested in the actual networking.
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