Do you find yourself dreading meeting new people and wondering what to say?
Firstly, a really simple little mind-trick is to get your focus off of you, off all the things you might be fretting about. Instead, think of someone who you might be of service too. Perhaps it’s someone who looks more nervous than you, or someone you have been meaning to have a conversation with or simply someone with a welcoming face that catches your eye. Without even realising it, you will probably already start to feel calmer.
Initially, lets consider situations where you are looking to connect with someone new. Once you’ve passed the initial ‘meet and greet’, why not start with questions that are not too invasive and won’t put them under pressure? They can choose how lightly or deeply they respond, giving you a good indication on how to progress…
“That’s an unusual name, how did that come about?”
“How did you get into this line of work/ kind of role?”
“How did you come to be living in this/that part of the country?”
The great thing with these questions is that most people are happy to talk about themselves. If you are demonstrating good listening behaviours they may well go on further than you expect.
If you wanted to progress the conversation here are some options….
“How do you fit into this team/ project/ world/ web of intrigue?”
“That sounds like an interesting job, tell me, if I was a client, how would your role impact/ help me?”
“Hmmm, interesting role, what are the best and worst bits of doing that job?”
“What is the most common misconception people have about your job?”
So what about when it is a ‘reconnecting’ situation? Prior to meeting/networking/days back in the office go to LinkedIn, see if anything has changed for them since you last saw them. Then you can initiate a conversation on something you are already aware of in their lives.
Was there something you knew they were involved in last time, allowing you to ask how it had panned out? A kind of “What happened next?” and “Were you pleased with the outcome?”
If you wanted to invest further time you could suggest something like “I’m going for a coffee now, do you have time to join me? It would be great to catch up.”
“What’s new in your world?”
“What has changed for you since we last met?”
“What’s your biggest challenge/opportunity at the moment?”
It’s worth remembering that people generally like to be listened to, so asking questions is a great place to start.
Give these a try and hopefully before you know it you are having meaningful conversations and you have created real rapport. Be bold, have a go and be sure to tell us about it.