Networking: How to Start the Conversation with a New Connection

Picture yourself in an elevator with one other person whom you do not know. The person could be the CEO of a tech startup, the friend of a friend who knows Bill Gates or, heck, even your future boss. All it takes is one conversation starter to spark a new long-term connection.

Without even realizing it, we are surrounded by meaningful connections every day. Starting a conversation with a new connection should be a breeze, right? Then why is it so common to see awkward and anxious moments at networking events? Thanks to networking opportunities and the boost that our social networks provide, we have the chance to be exposed to a massive network of people on a daily basis, but sometimes that initial conversation can be difficult. Here are some tips to make sure you have a truly meaningful conversation with a new connection:

Relax

Nervousness can block communication. Next time you are engaging with someone new, take a few deep breaths or practice a relaxation breathing technique. After all, not everyone is comfortable right off the bat! It’s okay to be a little nervous as long as you gather your thoughts and participate meaningfully in the discussion.

Find Common Ground

Whether it’s my endless love for traveling or obsession with dogs, I always try to throw out some of my favorite things to see if we have a common thread. Finding common ground will make you and the other person more comfortable and spark a conversation! This does not need to be (and probably shouldn’t be) related to your work or the industry you and your connection share, as long as it makes for a breezy chat. For me, talking to others who share my love for pups is way easier. What will your common thread be?

Have a Plan B

Not everyone loves puppies and traveling, which I can accept…I guess. If my casual common ground topics fail, I always have a backup conversation starter. This time, make it more general such as a current event or funny story. This way, you’ll show personality beyond strictly work and develop a deeper connection.

Phoneless Openness

Ever noticed how many people stare at their phones in public? While social media has made us more linked than ever, technology can also put up barriers between you and connections. Don’t let this happen! Embrace human interaction by being open and available in public. Say hello to others, make eye contact and Put away the phone for a while.

Name Repetition

SAY NAME. REPEAT. A LOT. By repeating someone’s name, you will automatically put yourself in a position to remember that person later. Not to mention, it feels good to hear your named repeated back to you, right? This will show confidence and interest in the conversation as well. Once your conversation has ended, make a note for yourself to as a reminder to follow-up with your new connection later.

Any Questions?

Avoid making the conversation solely about you. Listen, learn and develop meaningful questions. A new connection will appreciate your interest in learning about them. Also, don’t ask questions they’ve already given the answer to. By listening carefully, you can pick their brain and begin to develop a meaningful, two-way relationship!

Next train ride, elevator trip or networking event, try to start a conversation with someone new! Yes, it can be a little daunting, but if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll surely expand your network. Do you have any conversation starter tips? Please share below:

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