Networking makes the palms of even the most confident person sweat. The thought of going into a room where everyone looks super cool and seems to know each other, and having to introduce yourself to a group of strangers can be intimidating. Worrying about how to break the ice is top of mind in the run up to any event, and especially at the door.
Many of us make the first major mistake of arriving late and trying to slide unobtrusively into the crowd. Get over this by getting there early and then they have to come to you! Usually welcome desk staff will chat with you until the crowds arrive. These people are paid to be nice to you.
Read: How can you be memorable if you’re blending in at networking?
It’s a good idea to have a few ides to break the ice committed to memory and incorporating them into your networking tool box. This will be helpful if you are a nervous networker.
Here are some great tips to break the ice
# Perfect the basics
A good introduction, a smile, direct eye contact and a firm handshake are really important. What can go wrong with “Hi, my name is …? ” The other person should share their name, and now you are on a good path
#Create a dialogue with open-ended questions
Everyone like to talk about themselves!
- What brings you here? – They can than tell you why they are attending the event and what their expected out comes are. It can give you some good insights into the type of person they are.
- What business are you in? This is a good alternative to “what do you do?” It is also tactful for someone who might be unemployed or in transition.
- What is your role?
# Follow-up and personalise
When people have a chance to tell their story they become energised and will share nuggets of information. Now you can move to the why.
- What took you into that business/function? (the why)
- What do you like about it?
The main point is just be getting started and asking the right questions you can over come your nerves. While they are speaking you can take some deep breaths. They should automatically return the favour.
Now your turn
When it comes to your turn. Try the Simon Sinek tip of not focusing on what you do, but the why. Prepare a short but compelling introduction. You may not want to go as full-out as Simon does, but the message on the format should resonate.
His other tip was that it takes practise. Have many of these little ice beakers up your sleeve. You are not going to make the same introduction at a professional networking event as a birthday party, or social evening with colleagues. The important thing is to be flexible and empathetic. Otherwise as Simon suggests your listener will reach for the chips and say “nice to meet you” and totally forget you.
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