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How To Start A Conversation At A Business Function: Learn The Secrets Of Mingling

How To Start A Conversation At A Business Function

Nowhere is the art of mingling more important than at a work/business function. Often we attend business functions where we may not have anything in common with the other people there.

The best kept secret to business socializing is ‘Be a good conversationalist’.  Forgotten how to make face-to-face small talk?  Then consider the following.
A good conversationalist allows the other person to speak and participate. They stay present-in-moment and really listen; focusing on what the other person is saying rather than their own thoughts.  They make comments, provide free information and ask questions which encourage a response.

Basic Steps To Starting a Conversation

Do your homework, be prepared. Whenever possible, learn something about the people you expect to meet ahead of time.  This gives you an advantage and can make you feel more confident. Have a goal in mind – what do you want to achieve at this event?

1. Be an easy person to meet and greet.  Stand up…. make eye contact…. smile. If you have a name tag wear it on your right side.

2. First time meeting.  Introduce yourself with your first name, and then provide some free information to help the conversation move forward “ Hi, I’m Susan, from marketing”. It helps to visually attach a picture of their name to their face. To make sure you remember the other person’s name, try using their name often throughout the conversation.

3. If you have met before.  Reintroduce yourself…. “I’m Mary Smith, we met at …”

4. Shake hands.  Offer a confident hand shake to men and women alike. Avoid wearing an oversized ring on the right hand which can make a handshake uncomfortable.

5. Personal space.  After shaking hands, avoid ‘closing in’- maintain the same distance between both of you, as during the hand shake.

6. Make a positive light-hearted comment.  Start light and avoid getting into heavy topics (sex, religion, politics) straight away.

7. Questions.  Ask easy-to-answer questions about the situation or the other person. Use expanders and open-ended questions whenever possible.

  • “Have you attended one of these …Seminars/functions etc before?”
  • “What are your thoughts on… current topic that’s in the news/industry related?”
  • “Tell me a little bit about….your job….your company ….your product?”
  • “How did you get involved with….that club….that company….?”

8. Active listening.  Provide an opportunity for the other person to reveal the topics that they want to talk about. Know what to say next by listening for free information. Look for topics of common interest.

9. Know when to move on.  If after 10 minutes the conversation is going nowhere, move on graciously. Make a polite comment eg “ Nice to meet you John. Good luck with your project. I see someone I need to catch-up with”.

10. Review.  What went well or could be improved for next time. Did you get contact details from people you want to follow-up with? Note important names and details for future opportunities to build rapport etc.

Generally speaking, when you meet new people, you can be sure they all have one thing in common: self-interest. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to say something witty, clever or impressive about yourself, rather than focussing on and drawing that out of the other person.

Networking at a business function is a great way to build business connections and also build long-lasting, friendly relationships with colleagues.

See our short courses for more information in particular our The Exceptional Executive & Personal Assistant short course.