Networking Tips

10 Top Tips How to Start a Conversation at a Networking Event

Picture of Colin McKeand
Colin McKeand 27, January 2020

Welcome to the latest in our series of Networking Edinburgh Tips.

Today we are covering communication, answering the question: How to Start a Conversation at a Networking Event?

1. The simple answer is by saying as little as possible.

This may seem counterintuitive. But it’s a rookie mistake when meeting people to talk too much. You want to sell your goods or services, or hunt connections for a job search. Seize the day, right? You might not see this person again, so you should make the most of the opportunity to list all the good you have to offer?

Maybe it’s time to reset expectations and consider your methodology.

Whether you attend professional networking events in Edinburgh or Brisbane, the aim is to connect with people and develop professional relationships.

Best Conversation Starters

2. Let’s keep this simple. Your opening line should be something like, “Hi, I’m James. What’s your name?” You want to start a conversation, not dominate it.

3. You want to be listening twice as much as talking. Ask about the other person’s business, job and life and show that you’re paying attention by asking follow-up questions.

4. If the event organiser has provided a guest list in advance, you can do your homework before attending the event.  Research LinkedIn profiles so you have a head start in conversations. People will be flattered if you know a bit about them right at the start.

Don’t forget to hand over your business card and get one back.

Business Cards

5. Have your elevator pitch practised and ready to deploy when asked, but keep it brief. Don’t use it as a springboard to a sales pitch. If people are interested in buying from you, they will let you know. For now, concentrate on collecting business cards and getting to know their owners.

Small Talk

6. Keep an eye on the time and don’t hog any one person’s attention for too long. If you’re still talking after around 15-20 minutes, you probably should move on. You can be subtle: say you’re going to look for the bathroom or get a drink, or direct but always polite: explain that you’re going to mingle some more.

7. Tell people you have enjoyed connecting and promise to keep in touch. Make sure that you do.

Pay It Forward

8. If you are able to mention contacts you made earlier, in context, while on your rounds you will impress the people you talk to with your selfless listening skills. Anyone you reference will be very grateful, too.

Connect with People

9. If you are talking, 1-1 or in a small group, and you see a delegate approach, use verbal and non-verbal signals to welcome them to the conversation. They are not a threat to the connections you’re making; they are a new friend and a valuable business contact.

Staying in Touch

10. To get the most from your efforts, connect on LinkedIn or social media with the people you met within 48 hours. Keep in touch. The next time you meet, it will pay off.

networking events in Edinburgh