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How do I Start a Conversation in an Engaging Manner at a Networking Event or Conference?

networking conversation tipsI am just not good at going up to people I do not know and starting a conversation. At a networking event or conference how do I start a conversation in an engaging manner, and not just comment on the weather or traffic?


Topic Expert
Samuel Dergel
Title: Director - Executive Search
Company: Stanton Chase International
LinkedIn Profile
(Director - Executive Search, Stanton Chase International) |

Great question.

You should know that you are not the only one with this issue. There is a good chance that many people at the same event or conference feel the same as you do.

As someone that meets people often, I also get uncomfortable in rooms where I don't know anyone, even though I have a lot of experience.

If you were at a restaurant minding your own business, going up to someone you don't know and starting a conversation may be socially unacceptable. However, when you are at an event or cocktail or conference, the goal is to meet new people, and anyone who is attending is aware of this goal, as are you.

The most important part is the introduction. Going over to someone who looks receptive to talking to someone (anyone) is a good start. First, look them in the eye, shake their hand (firmly, not too hard, and not soft), and say your name. You can ask them theirs if they don't offer it to you. Be warm, friendly, and calm.

You are both have something in common. The event itself brings the two of you there. Asking about why they are at the event, what brings them their, how they are finding the conference so far, if they have been here in previous years, etc. are good ways to find common ground. You can also ask them about their personal goal for attending the event, and relate it to yours.

I always find that asking questions is a great way to get the conversation going. You don't have to talk much, just ask relevant and interesting questions, act interested and engaged, and show that you care about what they are saying. When you get people to talk about their favorite subject (themselves), you can build great connections very quickly.

Try these steps at your next event. Let me know how it works for you.


(VP Sales) |

I find asking for an opinion, advice or recommendations to be a good way to get people talking about what they know. Obviously, you'll want to avoid emotionally charged subjects like politics.
It's amazing what you can learn by asking what someone thought about a particular breakout session, this year's conference versus last. Commenting on one's tie or necklace and asking where they found it, etc.

Raghu Srinivasan
Title: SBU Division Vice President
Company: Xerox Services
(SBU Division Vice President, Xerox Services) |

We are all afraid to start a conversation because we are worried about how we will be perceived. This is a constant fear that all of us have in our minds. Just be normal and sincere in striking a good conversation. Dont think of what your acquaintance would think of you and you will have a great time!!

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I like Anon's approach to ask their opinion on something about the event. Where do you work, or what do you do are always pretty good starters as well. Much agreed that it is difficult for many people so more people in that room are likely feeling the same way as you.

Tarun Joshi
Title: Manager
Company: Deutsche Bank
(Manager, Deutsche Bank) |

Great question and really nice reply Samuel. Thank you.

In my view a positive body languange and confidence (within) are most important. You could be judged worth talking (or not) within as less as 15-30 seconds depending on how you present yourself and how you approach the other person. A good and confident smile always helps.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Listen for any hint of a something that is common to you both. Doesn't have to be business. You may have to stretch to make the dots connect, but you will find something.

Shane Riddle
Title: Financial Professional: Hi-Tech Mfg & Di..
Company: Planar Systems, Inc.
(Financial Professional: Hi-Tech Mfg & Digital Advertising, Planar Systems, Inc.) |

Ask questions...people love to talk about themselves. It puts them at ease and is something that most people are naturally good at. If you show genuine interest in them then you are likely to make a good impression and create potential for future interaction, which if you are at a networking event is the overall goal. Most people will reciprocate eventually and ask about you and by that point hopefully you feel comfortable enough in the conversation to feel confident and assured that you are creating a real relationship.

Topic Expert
Mark Sphar
Title: Chief Accounting Officer
Company: Veracity Payment Solutions
(Chief Accounting Officer, Veracity Payment Solutions) |

Good topic. Asking questions is a great start that looks like most everyone agrees on. But the real test is to make sure you are listening. I am guilty of worrying about the next question I should ask and only halfheartedly listening to the response. Being fully engaged in the conversation will go a long ways.

Topic Expert
Patrick Dunne
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Milk Source
(Chief Financial Officer, Milk Source) |

Asking questions is always best as each and every person is an expert on themselves. And who doesn't love talking about himself/herself?


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