Have you ever had an awkward conversation with a stranger at an event?
Of course you have.
We’ve all been there.
One of the reasons why it’s uncomfortable is because sometimes we don’t know how to begin a conversation.
And when we do, the chat likely doesn’t last very long.
If you’re a bookkeeper looking to prospect at networking events, this can potentially cost you many clients.
Yes, networking with strangers can be daunting at times, but according to INC.com’s Minda Zetlin, there are only 3 golden rules to follow:
Be pleasant and upbeat
Be open and straightforward
Say something the other person will want to hear.
With that in mind, here are some conversation starters Zetlin feels are guaranteed to get your conversation going.
1. "What nice (or awful, or wet, or unseasonable) weather we're having!"
There's a reason weather always tops the list of safe conversation topics. We all experience it, and we usually all feel the same way about it.
2. "Isn't this a lovely room?"
If it isn't, it still might be a nice hotel, or a convenient or pretty part of town. The point is to comment--approvingly--on your surroundings. If it's an ugly room, you don't want to say so because a positive comment makes a better first impression than a negative one, and besides, for all you know the person's sister is responsible for the decor.
3. "Is this your first time at this event?"
If it is, and you're an old hand, you can offer to share information or make introductions. On the other hand, if the other person's been around a while and you're the newbie, he or she may show you around.
4. "I really liked that thing you said."
If your target has given a presentation at the event, then picking something in it to praise is a surefire way to get that person's attention and good will.
5. "I really loved your last blog post."
If your target has published any writing online that you've read, say so, and mention something you particularly liked. (This works on me all the time.)
6. "That's a beautiful thing you're wearing."
It could be the other person's shoes, a piece of jewelry, or even a necktie. If you admire someone's taste, that person is almost guaranteed to like you.
Commenting on someone's clothing or accessories is usually a better idea than commenting on his or her hair or other physical attributes.
7. "Do you know anything about the next session?"
If she does, she can tell you all about it. If they don't, you can speculate together.
8. "Do you know where the next session is?"
Most people love to give directions.
9. "Can I help you with that?"
If the person you want to meet is struggling to juggle a briefcase, overcoat, and cocktail, for example, you can win points by offering your assistance.
10. "Are you having a good event?"
Asking what someone thinks of the event you're both at, and whether it's useful or informative, will almost always start an interesting conversation.
11. "Do you know what's happening next?"
What's going on in the next time slot? If the other person doesn't know either, you can figure it out together.
12. "What do you recommend?"
This could apply to a choice of sessions to attend, or hors d'oeuvres to taste, or even a tray of cocktails. Whatever the case, everyone loves to be asked for an opinion.
13. "I've been to your hometown."
If you know where the other person is from, and you've been to that place or have any connection with it, that's almost always a good conversation starter. It can also work just to ask what the place is like or what it is like to live there. (If the person comes from a large city, you can ask what neighbourhood and go from there.)
14. "Do you know...?"
This is a similar conversational gambit to the hometown one. If you know someone who works in this person's company, or in the same industry, etc., it's great to inquire whether you might have a mutual connection.
15. "I've been wanting to meet you."
Sometimes the direct approach is best.
Stick out your hand, state your name, and then tell people why you've been interested in meeting him or her. Of course, you're not going to say anything like, "I've been wanting to meet you because your company could really benefit from my services--let me tell you in detail about them."
As long as you're sensitive to the occasion, and to the other person's time, letting someone know you've been wanting to meet him or her in the hopes that you could do business together is perfectly fine. It might even increase curiosity about you.
Minda, you’ve given us some great advice. Thank you.
So, the next time you’re at a conference how will you begin a conversation?
Well, you have options now, so try one out and the rest is up to you.
To your success,
Article by Michael Palmer
Michael is the CEO of Pure Bookkeeping, the host of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast and an acclaimed business coach who has helped hundreds of bookkeepers across the world push through their fears and exponentially grow their businesses and achieve the quality of life they've always wanted.
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