Look for someone who looks like they would like to talk. Body language cues are a good indication of this. Let’s use our 5 examples from the room.
A. Group of four
This group look like they are in conversation already, and would be more challenging to break into for a first conversation. One of them, however, is looking at his phone, so that might be an indicator the person next to him is also looking for someone to talk to. Nevertheless, I’d start somewhere else.
B. The man and woman
I’d suggest these people are open to having more people join them. They are standing in a relaxed way, open to the rest of the room, standing at a 45 degree angle to one another.
C. Person sitting down
This man looks like he is struggling with the networking too! He has removed himself from the throng and has taken a seat by himself, and is staring at the ceiling. I might choose not to talk to him because he has chosen not to take part for a minute, and wait until he comes back into the room. However, if you can catch his eye, perhaps he would be a good person to go and speak to – perhaps he would appreciate it.
D. Pair facing away
These people look like they want to be joined by others, as they are facing the room. People standing at a table like this are easy to join, as the table is an excuse to go over to them – pop your drink down and get chatting!
E. Lone individual, grey shirt
I think this would be the easiest person to start with, as he is clearly ready to be approached. Standing looking out into the room waiting to catch someones eye or be approached.
- If you would rather wait to be approached, it is a good idea to stand close to the drinks table/food, so you will be right there when someone has furnished themselves with a drink and is looking for someone to talk to.
- Try not to take out your phone! I know it is the easiest thing to do if you are feeling uncomfortable but it will deter people from approaching you.
- Be like the man in the grey shirt – open, face the room, look around casually for someone to approach.
- If you are in a group or with someone, keep your body language open, at 45 degree angle, as if you are in a larger group with invisible people. That way, more people will come and join you. A group of three or four people is a good way of meeting as many people as possible in a short space of time.
- Have a walk around the room. It will feel a bit less awkward and you can better assess who to talk to. If your eyesight is sharp enough, try to read people’s name tags and where they work – if you see someone who would be an interesting addition to your network, choose them to approach.
- Smile! You are much more likely to have someone approach you if you smile at them.
Now we have an idea of where to start and whom to approach – what on Earth do we say?
Activity: Imagine you have approached the man in the grey shirt – what will you say to start the conversation? Think of 3 ideas. Write one idea in the comments section below.