Networking is essential to being a business professional to advance in your field. In fact, 85% of vacant jobs are filled via networking.
There are several benefits you can gain when you network within your industry. It’s ideal for relationship building, which can lead to further opportunities depending on who you talk to and the impression you make. But if you’re new to the professional world or are shy around people, you may need to learn how to begin.
We’re explaining how networking professionals can start up conversations. So if you don’t want to be at a loss for words at your next networking event, keep reading.
What Is Networking?
Networking is meeting new people, making connections, and building relationships within your professional world. You want to network for several reasons, and your contacts can be advantageous in the future. For example, you may ask your networking professionals for advice or leads.
You can network anytime, but it typically occurs at functions such as a networking event. A networking event is a function a company in a particular industry holds.
An invitation is extended to all industry-related businesses within a certain radius to attend so industry professionals can network with one another. Often many business professionals wouldn’t meet each other without networking events.
Networking professionals can also network online via websites such as LinkedIn, but this falls short compared to the impact of meeting in person. This is where knowing how to start a conversation becomes useful.
How to Network
Before we get to starting up conversations, let’s review how to network first. You could be new to the industry and unfamiliar with how to find events to attend. There are several ways to discover events if you’re new to your career, such as connecting with peers on sites like LinkedIn and asking them if they know of any events in your area.
You can also use social media to follow industry-relevant hashtags. This is an excellent way to find event ads in your city. You can also join online forums, groups, or communities related to your industry and be notified of local networking events.
Once you’ve found an event and accepted an invite, you may be anxious about socializing with your peers. Here’s some advice on how to network by yourself.
Leverage Social Media
If you’re going to an event alone, a quick way to make connections is to reach out to the other attendees through your business social media accounts. A brief message to say you’re attending the same event will mean you may have a friendly face when you arrive, even if you know no one else.
Approach Other Solo Attendees
At the event, another simple way to network and meet new peers is to approach other attendees who are alone like you. Just like you’d welcome someone starting a conversation with you, they will likely be eager to chat with you when you approach.
Keep It Simple
No matter who you are, what industry you’re in, or which networking event you’re attending, the simplest way to start a conversation is to offer a greeting. Just saying hello and introducing yourself and your company will spark further discussion.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Finally, another way to successfully meet networking professionals is to think ahead. This means spending some time researching and memorizing some easy start-up conversations. Luckily we’re giving you a bunch to start with in this next.
Conversation Starter Samples
If you’re an introvert or could be better at small talk, you may need help with starting conversations with other networking professionals like yourself. So, without further ado, let’s jump straight into some conversation starters.
Talk About Their Work
When meeting someone for the first time, it’s acceptable to introduce yourself and ask their name and about their company. It shows that you’re interested in learning more about them, which usually gets people talking.
Talk About Work
Talking about your company or asking about theirs is a great way to start a professional conversation. Because you will be among peers, you should all have something in common, which can lead to great discussions. Here are some work-related things you can ask:
“How long have you been in (your industry)?”
“What’s your company name?”
“Can you tell me about your business?”
“Have you worked on any compelling projects?”
“What made you join this career?”
Talk About The Event
The next topic you can talk about is the event itself. Using the event as a conversation starter is a quick and easy way to spark a discussion. For example, you can say:
“How did you hear of this event?”
“Is this your first event with (event host)? If not, what other events have you attended?”
“What do you think of the venue?”
“What do you think about the food?”
“Are you having Wi-Fi connection problems?”
“Where did you get that (food/drink)? It looks delicious!”
“Do you know if parking is validated?”
“Did you hear (presentation speaker’s name) speak?”
“What did you think of the presentation?”
Have a More Casual Conversation
There are times during a networking event when you can start a more casual conversation. Luckily, other guests who may have already spent much time discussing the event often welcome these. Here are some informal ways of starting a dialogue.
“What’s a good bar/restaurant in the area?”
“How was your traffic getting here?”
“Are you attending with colleagues?”
“Are you enjoying this weather?”
“What sports do you watch?”
“Where did you grow up?
“How did you get into (industry)?”
Chat With Networking Professionals With Confidence
Meeting networking professionals is a great way to advance yourself within your industry. However, not everyone is comfortable starting conversations with strangers and may struggle at networking events.
In this case, doing a bit of preparation and learning some conversation starters are great ways to get everyone talking. If all else fails, simply saying, “Hello, my name is ….” is usually enough to begin, don’t be shy.
We would love to hear from you if you would like to begin a stay-at-home business in your industry. Visit our website for more information, and we encourage you to get in touch if you have any questions.