What I hear most often from people is “how do you just walk up to people and start talking?”
Ok, so most of the time when networking, you are walking into a room that already has a number of people – and they all seem like they are already talking to someone. Great, now what?
What you have to remember is that unlike a dinner party, many of the people talking to each other just met a minute ago, you are not interrupting lifelong friends catching up. Still breaking into a conversation can be intimidating. There are so many ways to do this, I will need a number of posts.
If you are going to an event where you are totally new and expect not to know a soul, try engaging the staff or board.
- Email before the event and ask a question or two. It can be anything from directions to what type of people usually come. When you arrive, ask the check in staff to point out the person you were emailing so you can introduce yourself and thank them for their help. It will be easier because you already have started a relationship by phone or email, and it is a good excuse to break in if the person is already talking to someone.
- Find the board members. If the person you were emailing is the person at the desk, then you need another option. They don’t have time to talk to you. Ask them to point out the board members or other leaders – a membership chair is good, they always want to talk to potential members. You can say “I’m new and Mary suggested I introduce myself to you.”
- Ask for an introduction. The board member should know many of the attendees, so use them to get you to a good prospect. Tell them briefly what you do and the type of people you hope to meet. Ask them if there is anyone there you should definitely meet. Every board member I have ever known will walk you right over and get the next conversation started.