'Tis the season’ to celebrate, and no matter how much you abhor socialising with your co-workers, you will attend at least one Christmas or New Year’s party soon. But, being in a room full of people, you probably recognise by face, but no nothing about, can be daunting. Matters are much worse at conferences and events where practically everyone is a stranger. Such situations can be awkward and sticky, if you don’t know how to work your way out of them. Sure, it takes practice and experience to be confident and assured to network effortlessly at such networking events, but for all the novices and young professionals out there, we have put together a list of fail-safe conversation starters at office parties and networking events:
The Evergreen wonders:
Hi, I am (name), and I work at (company) or in (department)
It’s obvious, it’s simple and it works like a charm. This will most definitely elicit a similar response from the person you are talking to, and your work, roles and responsibilities will propel the conversation forward.
If it’s an office party, you’ll probably find enough common things to talk about, but if you are not, try explaining briefly what your organisation does, and what your role in it is.
How long have you been working here/at your current organisation.
Usually best to ask after the introduction, this also serves as a stand-alone starter. Depending on the answer, you can follow-up by asking if they like it here, or how has their experience been after such a long time. This can ultimately lead to talks about previous employers, and future plans.
Spot an individual or a small group:
Notice an individual all by them-self for long? Or a group of two/three people in the corner?
Begin a conversation by saying ‘I can barely hear anyone there, mind if I stay here for sometime?’ This serves as a perfect setting to exchange pleasantries, introduce yourself and begin a conversation.
Food: All parties and events have one thing in common that everyone can bond over: Food. Comment on the whether the gravy is too dry, or the chicken too spicy or the mousse to heavy and build on the responses. It works wonders every time.
Technology: ‘Is your network patchy here as well?’, ‘Are you having trouble connecting to the Wi-Fi as well?’, ‘Is that the latest ... phone/laptop, I am planning to buy one as well, how do you like it?’ As ironical as it may sound, technology can serve as a real conversation starter here, as opposed to killing it.
Weather/Traffic/News: ‘Did you have trouble reaching here as well?’, ‘It is unusually warm/cold today, isn’t it?’, ‘The traffic on the way here really tested my patience’, are all perfectly acceptable conversation starters to the person next to you, and no matter if the answer is yes or no, you can build on from there.
A few easy openers for conferences will save you the awkwardness and fumbling when starting a conversation. Try one of these next time, and make sure you slip in your introduction immediately before or after: ‘How did you hear about this event?’, ‘What did you think of ... session or I am looking forward to ... session’, ‘Are you here with colleagues?’
As important it is for you to ace starting a conversation, you must also build the knack of realising when the conversation is over, and not drag it unnecessarily. When you sense the conversation is heading to a closure, politely say ‘Thank you, it was nice talking to you ...’, and address the person by their name. Alternatively, say ‘I’ve got to get back to my team, but may I have your card’, or ‘I’ve got to head out now, but my colleague will have a lot to talk to you about’.
As you get ready to relax, and take a break before diving head-first into next year, do not get intimidated by the idea of attending special office parties, celebrations and events – no matter how introvert you are, and if nothing works, just say ‘Hello’ and get the ball rolling.
People Matters wishes you a Merry Christmas, and great New Year ahead!
What are some of the conversation starters you use frequently at events? Let us know in the comments below.