I started off my first business communication class by hosting a fake cocktail party – and requiring all the participants to mingle and meet each other. While the idea of business communication often conjures up images of memos, cover letters and proposals, I also think that the ability to network is one of the key skills that need to be part of the student’s repertoire.
So, off to mix and mingle they went. Awkwardly. Reluctantly. Hesitantly. And then we talked about some opening lines to lessen their discomfort. If you can get a conversation started, often the other person will take it from there. Thus, your key is to work on your opening line.
- What is your connection to this event?
- What interesting tidbit can you share about yourself to help me remember you?
- What kind of work occupies your time?
- What’s the last new thing you did?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What’s the best thing about your work?
- Where do you call home?
- Tell me something good!
Focusing on starter questions will help you ease into the conversation and minimize the awkwardness of being in a networking setting. Practicing them helps too: in the grocery store line, on a plane, at the playground or while waiting for an appointment. If you can get comfortable with the first line, it will make it easier to chat when the stakes are higher.