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Work, Work, Work: Striking Up a Conversation at Events

Conferences and work events are great ways to expand your network. You can easily approach colleagues, bosses, and future employers simply by asking them standard questions about their lives, companies, and experiences. Karen Wickre, author of TAKING THE WORK OUT OF NETWORKING, shares how you can strike up conversations at events with ease and confidence. 

Conferences are a low-stakes place for a little chitchat. It’s not only acceptable, but it can be very efficient while you’re at the coffee bar or waiting for the speakers to begin. During breaks I’ll circulate, making it a point to seem unhurried and open to others, phone at my side and not in front of my face. Standing in line to get in or to get a snack is a great place to say hello; with luck, see their affiliation (if the badges are readable); and have a quick exchange. And if you establish even a bit of a connection before running out of time, here’s where a business card is handy for following up. (There’s more on using business cards later in this chapter.) Here are some openers:

  • “How long have you been with [company]?” is a decent way to start, ideally followed by a general compliment: “That’s a crazy/fascinating/stable space to be these days.”
  • “What brings you here?” or “How are you liking the conference so far?” are old reliables if identification is elusive. It’s better to frame an open-ended rather than a yes/no question, like “Are you enjoying the conference?”.
  • Keep your personal elevator pitch handy. But if you’re not ready to go into your short spiel about your current or future professional life yet, it’s ne to get the other person to talk.

Find out more tips on how to network at events in Taking the Work Out of Networking by Karen Wickre!


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Excerpted from Taking the Work Out of Networking by Karen Wickre. Copyright © 2018 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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