Have you ever heard of KISS? It stands for “keep it simple, stupid.” My great-grandmother consistently reminded me of this saying when I was young. She always told me I overthought everything — and networking is no different.
I understand networking can be nerve-wracking and “no fun” at times, but it’s because we’re overthinking it. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Here are a few tips you can try out at the next networking event you’re going to that will make things much easier:
1. Keep Your Intro Simple
Simply introduce yourself, ask the other person’s name and ask what brings them to that particular event. Sometimes, we think we have to have some sort of catchy opening line to speak to people. More times than not, the best introduction is the simplest of them all.
Once you’ve asked them their name and found out why they’re there, try out tip #2.
Tip: Don’t forget the name of the person you just met. Dale Carnegie said the sweetest sound to anyone is hearing their own name. Be sure to remember this and, as you’re leaving, thank the person by their first name.
2. Find Something in Common
At the very least, you already have one thing common: whatever the purpose is of the networking event you’re at. Find out what attracted them to this particular event and explain to them your reasoning. Once you’re beyond that, don’t be afraid to ask the person about their professional and personal hobbies and find something that correlates with yours.
If, by some chance, you can’t find anything interesting or anything that correlates, then you can say, “I apologize, but I’m not familiar with X. Can you tell me more about it?” Show interest in their interests. Sometimes the best form of networking is flattery. (Just don’t take it over the top.)
3. Bring a Networking Wingman
Doing anything with someone else always makes it easier. Bring a friend with you to make introductions easier. You can even have them use the Barney Stinson method of introduction, “Hi, have you met Ted?”
While networking with a friend is a great way to meet more people, you need to make sure that your friend doesn’t overpower you. Don’t let them steal the spotlight, because no one will remember you and you’ll defeat the original purpose of going to this networking event in the first place. Have your friend there to make the initial introduction and get the conversation flowing. Once you’re in a good spot, your wingman should back out and let you do your thing.
4. Arrive Early
By being with the first few people there, you’ll be able to have easy “small talks.” As more people arrive, you can continue to introduce yourself, but you can always fall back to the first people you met.
Another advantage of arriving early is that people won’t have already formed conversation groups. This is a great way to meet multiple people quickly and easily and not have all the attention on you. In addition, if you’re really nervous, arriving early also gives you the chance to scope out the facilities — i.e. find where the bathroom is, find the room where the presentation will be, etc.
5. Find a Group of 3
A group of three people means that two other people have allowed someone to come into their conversation. Don’t barge in on the group, but get close to the group and see if someone will invite you into the conversation. This gives you the ability to quickly meet three people, but also take a back seat in the conversation. Don’t be a mute, but simply offer conversation when you can.
Do some research, find the attendee list and email people prior to the event. You can say something along the lines of, “I just wanted to introduce myself prior to next week’s event. I’m very excited to hear [person] speak about [the topic]. See you then!”
Doing this will give you the advantage of having someone expecting you to introduce yourself. This will help the conversation flow much easier for you.
Next time you’re at a networking event for any reason, try out these conversation starters. The secret is to simply have confidence — confidence in yourself, your skills and your experience.
Now, go out there and meet some new people!