Every career is built on two things: performance and relationships. Maintaining existing relationships is fairly straightforward, but how do you get your foot in the door to develop a new relationship? It’s as simple (or as daunting) as just starting up a conversation. Follow the tips and best practices that we layout below, and you’ll become a networking master.
This opening seems like a no-brainer, but it’s very often skipped. The standard “Hi! I’m (your name). Thought I’d introduce myself.” is really all it takes. It takes some bravery to walk up to someone and be the first to talk, but your listener will respect your confidence and open up.
The formula for good conversations
Ask a question + Listen to the answer + Respond in the form of a statement
Well, what question do I ask?
- Why they work where they work
- Why they chose the neighborhood where they live
- What brings them to the event you are both at
- What they enjoy about their work or a hobby
Keep it open
Open-ended questions work great. Make sure that it’s a question that will lead your listener to a positive place.
Don’t just listen with your ears. Body language plays a critical role in any conversation. Smile. Look your listener in the eye. Make sure that your physical cues show that you’re engaged.
It’s about feelings
Your listener won’t remember many of the details of your first conversation. However, they’ll recall precisely how that conversation made them feel. Find out what your listener is passionate about and hone in on that subject. The most important thing is the emotional state of the other person and how well you can relate on an emotional level.
- Ask for your listener’s opinion. Everyone has plenty of opinions and people love to share them.
- Ask for their advice or recommendations. Make your listener feel important in any way you can.
- Connect over a mutual acquaintance. This is a great way to find common ground.
- Bond over a shared experience. Again, common ground is a good thing.
- Put your listener on center stage with a thoughtful compliment.
- Share your story. Everyone has one, and they are always interesting!
The lasting, genuine relationships that will aid you throughout your career are all built on mutual connections. The formula and tips listed above will help you find and make many new connections that will grow and develop for years to come.
What are your favorite conversation starters?