How to Make Networking Conversations Less Awkward and More Engaging

Does walking into a room full of strangers at a networking event, “working a room” and answering the question, “What do you do?” feel awkward and unnatural? For a lot of professionals (including myself) I talk to the answer is “yes”.

Networking is vital to business and career success. And networking conversations can be more memorable and engaging.

Let me share a recent experience.

Earlier this month I hosted a morning mixer at the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce. As the host, I provided coffee and treats, got to talk about my business and share some insights into how to be more memorable when networking.

As folks started to arrive, the strangest thing happened. They gravitated to the small tables and handful of chairs scattered around the room.
 They sat, quietly, by themselves at the morning “mixer”.

So I welcomed everyone, shared three networking questions that did NOT include the inevitable “What do you do?” and invited them to get up and meet someone new.

Those three questions:

  • Introduce your name/business name only
  • Find out what captures their attention when not working (i.e., hobbies/interests)
  • What they love about their work

After that, they could go into more detail about “what do you do?” (Because while sometimes awkward to start with, it’s an important question to answer clearly during networking events. And if you have trouble, I recommend this marketing coach.)

Although people moved slowly from those seats, they all got up, found a partner and engaged in lively conversation.

After about 15 minutes, I had them find a new partner. After a few minutes they introduced their partner to the larger group.

It was so much fun to hear about people’s hobbies:

  • A travel agent who for fun races cars in Florida.
  • A marketing consultant for a printing company who loves to rap (and even created a recording studio in her closet)
  • A real estate agent with tall, sparkly sliver boots who loves shoes.

And many more.

I remember their names, hobbies and businesses.

That’s not the case at every event I go to. In fact, it seems people pay more attention to their phone and Facebook pages than the person speaking.

How does that help anyone make connections and grow their business?

After the mixer in Plymouth folks shared some feedback:

“I attended a networking event later that day and my conversation was so different and so much better thanks to your insights.”

“I was nervous about attending the mixer alone. Usually my business partner comes with me, but she’s out of town. You made people feel welcome and I felt more comfortable.”

“Thank you so much. As people left they kept telling me how much they enjoyed the mixer! I’d love to have you speak at an upcoming event.”

The Bottom Line:

Networking – in your company or outside of it – doesn’t have to be awkward or boring. Make interactions more engaging (i.e., keep people from checking their phones!) by challenging the status quo, asking a different set of questions, and figuring out how to make yourself and your business memorable. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy the mixer instead of sitting quietly, alone.

Your turn to talk to me

  • Networking: love it or hate it?
  • Tell me why.
  • What’s the most memorable thing about you?

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Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


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