Networking with complete strangers is not always something that everyone can adapt to. This can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety if you are not comfortable with initiating conversations in a group of unfamiliar faces. However, this is very necessary to do if you want to advance both personally and professionally in whichever goals that you want to accomplish. Here are a few tips that can help you step out of your comfort zone and ease the burden of initiating a group conversation.
- Relax. Most likely you aren’t the only one there struggling with this problem. Leading up to your conversation, practice some stress relief techniques that will help you to be able to speak comfortably.
One stress relief technique that I like to practice when having to initiate conversation is simply smiling when I speak. People find comfort in a smile, and they are more likely to sympathize with your situation.
Get in control of your emotions and insecurities that make this process so difficult for you. Sometimes, identifying what is holding you back will allow you to face this issue head-on and help you work on improving this in the future.
- Interact with everyone in the group. Introduce yourself to everyone and help other individuals to introduce themselves if necessary. We tend to be more comfortable when speaking freely about ourselves.
Talk about your hobbies and things that you enjoy doing. Sometimes admitting to others that networking is difficult for you will elicit support from the group.
- Break the Ice. Tell a funny joke or address whatever “elephant” that is in the room. Your goal to “breaking the ice” is to start a dialogue that other attendees can relate to.
When starting your conversation, choose a general topic, one that everyone can relate to. This will let everyone feel that they belong and is a great way to encourage everyone to share their ideas. Be careful not to choose potentially triggering topics such as religion or politics.
- Ask open-ended questions. Try to stay away from yes or no questions. You’d want to initiate a flow of conversation and not to make other individuals feel like they are being drilled.
This can also give you some ideas on what to add to the conversation. Use this as a gauge to determine what other topics can be brought to the conversation.
You don’t necessarily have to use all the above tips nor do you have to use them in the exact sequence. Simply choose which ones are the most appropriate for the situations you find yourself in. What matters the most is that you use these tips to start a conversation on a positive upbeat tone.
Once you begin experimenting with new ways to start conversations, you will notice what works best for you and what is appropriate for the current setting. The key is to find comfort in a process that you didn’t find comfort in beforehand and before you know it you’ll love meeting new people!