It’s one of the hardest things to get right at a networking event, and something that many people simply don’t know how to approach.

We’re of course referring to the dreaded conversation starter!

This is where it all begins, after all. It’s where you get to make a first impression with someone who could possibly become a very useful business associate, partner or even customer.

If you’ve already attended networking events and fumbled your way across this initial hurdle, or you have your first event on the horizon, we’ve got six ways to open that all-important first conversation.

1. “Hi, how are you?”

You didn’t see that coming, did you?

Sometimes, the most effective conversation starters are the simplest and most obvious. How do you normally greet people? With a smile and the usual pleasantries!

Networking is all about being yourself, so don’t feel as though you have to put on any kind of front when greeting people.

2. “I’m about to grab a coffee – fancy joining me?”

This is a great ice breaker if you spot someone who looks a bit lost or unsure about how to get going (like you).

Coffee, tea, a sandwich from the buffet – whatever it takes to warm someone to you and demonstrate that you’re in this with them!

3. “What’s the best thing about your job?”

Once the usual pleasantries are out of the way, you can crack on with what matters – the person you’re talking to. Whatever you do, don’t launch into a long monologue about yourself.

Given this is a business event, focussing the attention initially on their role is a great way to get them talking and the conversation flowing.

4. “Did you hear about ?”

Before you head out to the networking event, make sure you go armed with knowledge of some relevant news stories from within your industry.

Chances are, you’ll already be ‘on the pulse’ with this kind of stuff, but by having one or two topical points of discussion on the tip of your tongue, you’ll immediately sniff out the people who have views that can be explored.

5. “I read your article on Linkedin – it was brilliant!”

Again, a bit of homework before the event will give you the chance to find people on LinkedIn with whom you want to meet on the day.

When you find their profiles, have a read of any recent updates or articles they’ve written. Trust us, there’s nothing more satisfying or flattering than someone telling you they read something you spent ages writing!

6. “I noticed that we both attended ”

If you know that someone in the room was at another event you’ve attended recently, a great way to get the conversation started is to ask them what they thought of it.

Clearly, you share similar interests and goals for such events, which is why this is a great way to break the ice.

Wrapping up

See? It’s not that tricky, is it?

Effective networking takes time, patience and knowledge of the above conversation starters. Don’t enter that room without them!