Contributed by Karen Rodriguez, Exec|Comm Partner
Many of us attend conferences for professional development. We’d like to expand our job knowledge and bring the outside in. But, it’s also a great time to step outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. Here are a few tips on how to be ready to strike up a conversation at your next event (HR West is right around the corner!):
Study the headlines. Before heading to the conference, scan the headlines or consider what is new and interesting in your industry and note a few potential topics to discuss.
Maintain eye contact. When introducing yourself, smile and look into the person’s eyes as you speak your name and they say theirs. As the conversation continues, keep your focus on the person you are talking with. Don’t scan the room looking for friends or others to meet.
Gesture openly. Avoid crossing your arms or clutching your drink with both hands as you talk. Instead, try and keep your hands apart and your arms relaxed. Gesturing makes you appear natural and approachable.
Ask a few questions. Sometimes you’ll need to jumpstart their side of the conversation. Try asking an open-ended question like “What were you hoping to learn while you’re here?” If their answer is short, build on the information they’ve just shared.
Find a connection. As they’re answering your questions, find an element to pick up on. You’re listening for something to keep the conversation going. Find common ground and the conversation will continue without effort.
Speak slowly and pause. Keep the dialogue moving at a casual pace. If you talk too quickly, the listener will strain to keep up or may interpret your speedy delivery as a sign of nervousness.
Disengage politely. After a few minutes, it’s perfectly fine to close the conversation. Exchange contact information, if you’d like. Ask them to join you on a trip to the buffett. Or, simply smile, tell them you enjoyed chatting and move on.
We hope you meet lots of interesting people at HR West 2016. Just start with “hello” and go from there.
Have other tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Karen Rodriguez joined Exec|Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009. As the manager of the Exec|Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She recently introduced the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched their quarterly lunch and learn series, The Learning Exchange. Additionally, she manages their open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.