Google the phrase “I hate networking” and you’ll get over 18 million results. Sure, there are a few wildly extroverted souls out there who swear they love it, but for many people — if not most — making conversation with a bunch of strangers is far from their idea of a good time.
We’ve written before about how the best way to get over your fear of networking is to redefine your terms. Think of it as building relationships, and some of that cold-sweat inducing artificiality fades. That said, there are times when no positive mindset will change the fact that you’re talking to people you don’t know. The potential for awkwardness is high at networking functions, and there’s no use pretending otherwise.
However, there is one tool that will help you in these situations, and that’s the good, old-fashioned ice breaker. Choose a few that feel natural for you, and you’ll be better prepared at your next event.
Sometimes, the simplest introduction is the best. If you’ll feel phony delivering a more obvious ice breaker, don’t make yourself even more uncomfortable. Stick to the classics.
“That [tasty treat] looks great. Where’d you get it?”
Most events come stocked with food and drink, which means that you can get your snack on while also starting a conversation. Again, being genuine is important. Don’t express delight at the vegan brownies if you suspect they’ll taste like sawdust. You’re looking for genuine points of connection, and food is often an opportunity for that.
“Is this the place where we hide from the crowd?”
The good news about being a committed networking-event wallflower is that you’ll have lots of company … and they’ll be just as awkward as you are. If you find yourself sitting on a hotel banquette with a bunch of other people who just fled a meet-n-greet, bond over the fact that you’d all rather be at the DMV. Misery loves company.
Most people hate taking advice and love giving it. Use the latter to your advantage, and ask your fellow conference goers for their tips on everything from sessions to attend to places to get a decent cup of coffee.
More interesting than the usual, “What do you do?,” this question allows you to have a real conversation that goes beyond job titles. Learn more about what your new connection actually does all day and stand out as someone who’s genuinely interested in what makes people tick.
Tell Us What You Think
What would you add to this list? We want to hear from you. Leave your favorite ice breaker in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.