Everyone has jitters before a networking event, whether it’s online or offline.
I know it can be so daunting showing your face and speaking to strangers for the first time.
Don’t worry though, help is at hand!
The more you network, the easier it gets. Trust me on that one.
In the meantime, to help calm your nerves, I have created a series of easy to ask questions, prompts and tips that will help you to start a conversation in any networking scenario!
You can choose which phrases suit you and your personality best and remember; the key is not only to ask questions, but to share your thoughts with the other attendees too. This demonstrates that you are ready to have a dialogue and that you are actively listening.
Oh, and remember to smile too!
Helpful general conversation starters for online & offline events:
These are your new go-to tips on how to navigate the world of online and offline networking events. By using these at a networking event, you will be eased into starting an interesting conversation with someone you may have never met before.
“Hi, how are you doing”?
I know this is an obvious question, but this is a perfect ice breaker in any new introduction.
Always introduce yourself.
Simply tell them your name and you can even add in where you are based as a little extra background information, which starts a conversation.
“How did you find this event”?
Explain whether you found the event online or by seeing an advert. Whatever the reason, its interesting to share what brought you all together on that day.
“Have you ever been here before”?
You can ask this about the venue, or about the online networking event.
“How did you know about this event”?
By asking this question you can find out a lot more about the people you are speaking to and follow on the conversation from the answers they give.
“I have attended / I haven’t attended a lot of events recently, and you”?
The key is to be honest. Even if you don’t usually attend events, the people you speak to may suggest other events for you or even invite you to join them in future.
If you have attended lot’s of events, chat about which ones you enjoyed the most and why.
Share your insights - for example:
“I am afraid all the events will be digital soon, and we will need more tools to stay connected. What do you think?” People love to share their opinions, so this would be a great conversation starter (without you having to say much from your side at all)!
“Do you know any of the speakers from this event? I follow a couple of them on LinkedIn, and I’m excited to see them in person (or online)”
By showing an interest in the speakers, this is a great way to strike up a conversation relating to the event itself, plus it shows that you have done your research!
Handy tips for what to do when you have just arrived at an offline Network event:
This is probably the most nerve-racking part of the networking event, for everyone – not just you! So don’t worry at all, everyone is in the same boat whether you can see it or not. Just take in a couple of deep breaths, take your time and use some of these helpful tips to ease you into the event.
Firstly, grab a drink.
This way you can start a conversation with someone else in the queue. Use some of my tips above to strike up a conversation with someone next to you. Plus, once you have a drink in hand, you also have something to hold while you are speaking, which can be helpful as you don’t have to worry about what to do with your hands.
If you see any people standing alone, this is the perfect opportunity to join them and start a conversation.
You already know how they are feeling as they could be just as overwhelmed as you. Simply introduce yourself and use some of the conversation starters from the list above!
Following on from this step (and this one is important) When you feel that someone is trying to join your groups conversation – welcome them too.
Ask what their name is, and you can introduce them to the group who can also share who they are. You can follow on by asking them a question relating to what your group were discussing, so the topic of discussion can carry on smoothly and they know they are included and welcomed into the chat.
So, what if you are the one that is looking to join in with a group of people?
Don’t be shy. Ask if you can join, for example say something along the lines of: “Hi there, do you mind if I join? Your conversation sounds so interesting I just had to ask”! If you don’t get the opportunity to ask (as you don’t want to interrupt) and they open their ‘circle’ they are inviting you to join.
Sometimes people are too excited about their group conversation and may continue their discussion. If this happens; Do. Not. Worry. This happens to everyone and they will not have meant it in a rude way, sometimes people are just simply engrossed in a conversation. You can move on to find another group with no worries.
Remember that nobody has any opinion about you.
People at networking events don’t know you, as you don’t know them either. So just be yourself and be confident by smiling and being friendly.
Tips for online networking events:
You may have never been to an online networking event and I know this seems scary, but don’t worry. It’s just like any other networking event. Follow these tips which will help you present yourself confidently to a digital audience.
Firstly, always introduce yourself.
If this event is online networking make sure you turn your camera on, as it’s always better to see people and allow them to see you. Don’t feel uneasy about this (most people end up staring at themselves online without anyone realising anyway)!
If there are a few people that have already joined but they are not speakers, ask everyone how they found out about the event.
You can also chat about the weather (which is great small talk conversation starter) or where people are based (which country or region).
During any discussion:
If you feel that everyone contributes and you don’t have the opportunity to speak, you can ‘raise your hand’ or inform a facilitator in an online chat. You can usually do this by pressing a button on your screen.
Here is my final point to reinforce why smiling is so important:
Researchers have found that it is difficult to frown when looking at someone who is smiling according to the Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour.
So, smile 😊
I hope this blog post helps give you the confidence to join a Networking event, and actually enjoy it too! I am always here to help if you are feeling nervous at all about an event. So please reach out if you need a chat or any other pointers!