Networking events are one of the best ways to improve your odds of landing an internship, a job or at least a mentor. They are the quintessential way to put yourself in front of the people who will help you succeed in your objectives. Unfortunately, these events can procure awkward moments.
The awkward feeling stems from having to invade the social space of a stranger with no reason other than to introduce yourself. Typically, humans need a “why” to go with the action. Without it, it just seems like invasive behavior. For those in need of a push into the pool of conversation, here are a few ice breakers that will have you gabbing in no time.
Front and Back Name Tags
I’ve always found name tags to be a necessary evil; however at any chance I get I love to write a silly name or even a famous name on them. For this easy ice breaker make your front tag your real name, there’s no escaping that. After all, this is a networking event and you want people to know who you are. On the second name tag, write something interesting and stick it on your back. This name tag can be someone you look up to, a cartoon character or anything you want. This allows others to come up and start a conversation with a common interest.
By putting a silly name tag on like “Hi, my name is Abraham Lincoln” this gives someone an opportunity to walk up to you with a reason. Even if that reason is just to ask why you have a silly name tag on your back.
Flattery Will Get You Somewhere
As cliché as it sounds, flattery is another great reason to walk up to someone in a social space. Who doesn’t love receiving a compliment? In most cases, the person you complimented will end up telling you a story and you may just learn of a new hairdresser, where the best tailor in town is or better yet, an internship opportunity. Make sure when you’re complimenting the person that you are sincere. Fake compliments work in the opposite direction and should never be used.
Lines Lead to Leads
Food lines, bathroom lines and drink lines are always an opportunity to start a conversation. Lines are boring and the best way to pass time is by talking. Ask the person what drink they’re getting or talk about how good the food smells. One of my favorite conversation starters in the bathroom line is to spout out a fact in the form of a question such as, “Did you know that the first flushing toilets cost one penny to use?”
If all else fails, a simple introduction of “Hi, I’m Shay,” with the optional handshake works just fine. These conversation starting tips work not only at networking events, but also at Chapter meetings. Overall, the awkwardness of conversation with professionals or peers in a semi-professional setting is a conscious thought held by most. To succeed, just relax and ignore the awkward feeling like everyone else.
Shay Franchini is a senior at Wayne State University. She is a member of the WSU Chapter of PRSSA, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Sigma Alpha Pi. She also holds a silver and gold microphone award from the Michigan Association of Educational Broadcasters. Connect with Shay on LinkedIn.