At any given networking event, you’ll likely hear phrases like, “Can you believe the weather we’ve been having?” or “These appetizers are delicious.” Remarks surrounding topics like the weather or the event you are attending are common icebreakers because they are simple ways to start a conversation with someone you don’t know. In fact, I once had a full five minute conversation with another young professional about the weather. While we both agreed that we were sick of the freezing temperatures outside, we never discussed anything more relevant to our professional lives. The weather was a great icebreaker, but the conversation never got past the topic and we missed a good networking opportunity.
If you’ve ever had a similar experience of being stuck in the icebreaker zone, you probably wish you had been able to get more value out of the conversation. Below are a few ways to move beyond your initial topic. While each conversation is different, using just one of the ideas will help keep the conversation moving.
- Introduce yourself early in the conversation and add where you work or what you do. The other person will likely reciprocate and your conversation will develop from there.
- Discuss the event you’re attending – but more than just the food. For example, you could mention that it’s your first time attending this event and ask if they are a regular attendee. Depending on their response, you could ask for tips or allow them to share their past experiences and knowledge with you.
- Learn more about their background. While they may have already discussed their current position, you can ask how long they’ve lived in the area or where they are from originally. This will help give you a more complete picture and open the conversation to other topics.
Lastly, be sure to exchange contact information. At most networking functions, you don’t want to spend the whole event talking to only one person. Exchanging contact information can help conclude the current conversation, but allow for future follow-up opportunities.