I have a love/hate relationship with people. I love meeting someone new and hearing their story, but the nuances of humans can be overbearing. Years ago, I was very shy and terrible at conversation. Thrown into my first networking event, I was at a loss for words and made a complete fool of myself. With the fortunate opportunity of meeting people from all over the world, I’ve picked up on a few tried and true techniques that make meeting people and networking events a breeze.
One of the oldest tricks in the book and works every time. Do not frown, do not look angry, do not look bored. Carry a nice, easy, pleasant smile on your face (Side note: Don’t smile too hard, it looks creepy and not genuine.). Be conscious of the muscles in your face. It shows that you are open to others and approachable.
Shut Up and Listen
Don’t try to overcompensate your inability to carry a conversation by talking too much. It sends the wrong message and you will end up saying something really stupid and ruin your chances of a connection. Instead, research a few key phrases that you can say to start or carry a conversation like “That sounds interesting, can you tell me more about it?” People love talking about themselves. While the other person is talking, use your common sense to interject related questions or comments that will keep the other person talking. Once in a while, insert a quick related personal story. It’s simple and with practice you will become a crowd favorite.
Don’t lie. You have experiences and stories that make you who you are. If you don’t agree with something someone said, polite disagreement is a great lead in to a valuable conversation. Just know how to stand your ground. Alternately, you will find people you have things in common with. It is also a great way to gain stock with a person. Either way, the person will appreciate you for expressing who you are.
Most importantly, learn to laugh at yourself. Once you accept that you will not have a perfect conversation and that you will mess up, the pressure is taken off and you can relax. Keep it light, keep it real.