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How To Avoid A Typical Conversation

Three ways to boost your networking skills

typical conversationEverybody knows the key to a successful career is networking. It’s the best way to find a new job, land a promotion or build a new business. Yet, many people are uncomfortable around strangers, particularly when they’re outside their comfort zone. For example, when they’re at a networking event.

Why? First it’s difficult to enter an ongoing conversation. Especially when it’s a party of two who seem particularly engaged. A better way to meet new people is to go up to someone standing alone. If they’re like most of us, they’re just waiting there hoping someone will come over and talk to them.

They key here is to avoid a typical conversation.

Jill/Joe: Hi, I’m _______ Smith.
Amy/Andy: Hi Jill, I’m ________ Sage.
Jill/Joe: Nice to meet you.
Amy/Andy: Nice to meet you too.
Jill/Joe: Have you been to _________before?
Amy/Andy: Yes.
Jill/Joe: When were you here?
Amy/Andy: A couple of months ago.
Jill/Joe: Are you a member?
Amy/Andy: Yes, I just joined.
Jill/Joe: Great! What do you do?
Amy/Andy: I’m a senior vice president in marketing for XYZ company.
Jill/Joe: That’s nice.
Amy/Andy: What do you do?
Jill/Joe: I’m a lawyer.
Amy/Andy: That must be interesting.
Jill/Joe: Yes.

The two of them stand there awkwardly for a few minutes.

Amy/Andy: Well it was nice to meet you.
Jill/Joe: Nice to meet you too.
Amy/Andy: OK, bye.
Jill/Joe: Bye.

Two or three conversations like this will convince you that going to networking events is a big waste of your time. But you would be wrong. The secret to going from superficial formalities to actually having a conversation is to be prepared.

Before attending your next event – be it your association’s monthly meeting or an office party – do the following:

  • Have three topics to talk about besides the weather. Before you head off to your next event scan your local paper, spend a few minutes online visiting MSN™ or the NYTimes.com. For more unusual topics subscribe to the Cool News of the Day newsletter which will bring interesting tidbits to your email box every day.
  • Try to ask open-ended questions. For example, follow-up “What do you do?” with “What made you choose that profession/business/career?” Avoid too many questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Remember the other person probably is just as nervous as you are.
  • Think about how you can help the other person with their networking goals. Ask what brought them to this particular event. Was it the speaker? Were they attracted to the association itself? Was it recommended by a friend? What do they hope to get out of being there?

The more often you practice your networking skills, the more comfortable you’ll be meeting new people. And the better your skills the easier it will be to build your network. Always remember, most people there are as anxious as you are. The person you see standing alone in the corner is fervently hoping someone will come over and say hi.

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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