If you're searching for a new job or looking to expand your professional circle, networking is a great way to open doors and make connections. However, networking can be a challenge. When it comes to casual non-work related conversations, it's much easier to feel natural when there is no pressure. And regardless of how social you may be, engaging with professionals and discussing your experience is trickier than it seems. So how do you ensure you're saying all of the right things? First off, it's good to consider your circumstances - a sit-down meeting for coffee will provide a different atmosphere than a large cocktail gathering. Always remain professional, don't be afraid to talk about yourself and your experience, and always ask questions and remain engaged. Below, we've compiled 6 great conversation starters that will help steer the conversation in the right direction.
1. What do you love most about your job?
Not only will this question give you a heads up into what this particular person does (thus allowing you to make a mental note to connect further if it's in line with what you do) but it makes the person feel at ease and important. Opening the door for others to talk about themselves and why they love what they do will show that you're an engaged and thoughtful professional right from the start.
2. Who/what are some of your favorite authors/podcasts?
Inquiring further into the types of content others like gives good insight into where your interests might align. It also gives you both a chance to share some fun recommendations, since you'll most likely be asked to share your favorites, as well.
3. I was just about to grab another drink/appetizer, would you care to join me?
If a particular guest has really sparked your interest, asking this question will help procure some alone time for you to dig deeper into a one-on-one conversation.
4. Is this your first time at this event?
Another great icebreaker, this question will allow you to dive into a conversation about the event. If they've been before, you can follow up by asking what they like most about it. If it's their first time, you can ask what they've liked so far or are most excited for.
5. This looks like a fun conversation, mind if I join in!?
Interjecting yourself into an already-happening conversation can be hard, but complimenting the group with this question will ease the tension and allow you to slide in naturally.
6. I love your work (or your book, article, etc).
If there is someone you're particularly excited about meeting, it's great to start with a compliment about their work and what you appreciate most about it. People love hearing how their work has affected and influenced others, and this question offers a great way for you to introduce yourself to get the conversation going.