Networking events can be SUPER intimidating, especially if your number one fear is that no one will talk to you. No one wants to stand in the corner alone with their mini crab cake appetizer and glass of wine watching everyone else socialize (well, maybe you do, but for the sake of this article, you’re in it for the networking — meeting new people is fun!).
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If you’re having a hard time holding a conversation with someone at networking events, one of these things could be the root of the problem.
1. You’re uninviting.
People strike up conversations with people who seem genuine, personable, and excited to chat. However, if you’re nervous, intimidated, or bored, you can come across as uninviting, which will discourage people from starting conversations with you.
When you attend networking events, make sure you’re smiling, excited, and genuinely happy to be there and meet new people. Not only will it encourage people to walk over and say hello, but it will also give you a sneaky confidence boost!
2. You didn’t outfit yourself correctly.
These days, everyone thinks of “professional attire” at little differently. For some, it means a suit and tie and for others it means “don’t show up in sweatpants.” As a result of our industries changing and our unique styles developing, the rules of wardrobe can be a little grey.
However, it’s important to be presentable when you’re attending professional events. Dressing up is a sign of respect. While it’s important to embrace your unique style, it’s just as important to consider the environment you’ll be in so you can dress appropriately. People will see that you’re taking it seriously and want to strike up a conversation with you.
Also, wearing something that makes a statement is actually a great way to get people to start conversations with you. I typically wear something bright and fun because it represents my personality and also encourages people to come up to me and start chatting. It helps me stand out! Insert your personality by wearing pops of color, a cool tie, or your favorite shoes.
3. Your manners are lacking.
Manners go beyond the handshake. If you’re constantly interrupting people, talking with your mouth full, or making rude comments, people aren’t necessarily going to want to continue the conversation. So, just be mindful of your behavior.
4. You don’t clearly explain what you do.
When you don’t have a branding statement and can’t clearly articulate what it is that you do without going into a long, drawn out rant, sometimes people aren’t sure how to keep the conversation going because they’re not clear on who you are and what you do. Develop a short introduction for yourself that is easy to understand and free of jargon. It’ll be easier to remember and will encourage others to learn more about you.
5. You’re a total Debbie (or Donnie) Downer.
Some people don’t even realize they’re doing this, but they always seem to tie things back to something negative. Whether it’s a hard job search, bad boss, drama at work, or something else, try to steer clear of these types of topics. No one likes talking to a Debbie Downer! Think about what excites you and talk about that instead. Or, put the focus on the other person by asking them questions about their life and career.
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6. You’re a conversation hog.
No one wants to talk with someone who doesn’t allow them contribute to the conversation. Why would someone waste their time listening to you ramble away when they could have actual conversations with other people at the event?
No one wants to get stuck with “The Rambler” at networking events. If you find yourself controlling the conversation, step back, take a deep breath, and ask questions to encourage a two-way conversation. Plus, you might actually learn something valuable or interesting about that person that you can reference later.
7. You’re too focused on you.
When you meet someone new, all you’re focused on is, well, YOU. You know, how can someone help YOU get a job, or what someone can do for YOU.
Networking isn’t just about you – sorry ‘bout it. Think of it as a collaboration between two professional friends. How can you help each other? Always find ways to offer value before you ask for something from someone, especially if they’re a brand new connection. First impressions matter, and you don’t want people instantly thinking of you as a selfish networker.
If you do your best to avoid these things during networking events, you’ll have a much easier time getting conversations started, keeping them going, and building strong professional relationships that will work for you.
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This post was originally written by Ariella Coombs.