Networking events can cause anxiety in some, excitement for others, and confusion for most.
“What do I do?”
“What do I say?”
“How do I pitch my business without sounding pushy?”
These are some of the things I’ve thought before attending a networking event in the past and in some cases they are the kind of thoughts that have driven me to stay at home and cuddle up with a Pot Noodle next to LinkedIn.
People online are much easier to talk to or even ignore!
The truth, however, is that you will get more out of one hour networking with real people than you can do in a full day of online networking.
You can build deeper connections; create real memories; tell better stories and eat free food!
But the first question that most people think when they see a room full of strangers is:
“What on earth do I say?”
What should I say when networking?
Here are ten tried and tested openers that will make you likeable, remembered, and won’t make your new contact cringe
1. You look really friendly. My name is…
I absolutely love this opener.
You start off with such a positive vibe and a compliment too. It’s not cheesy or off putting and it’s such a great way to change someone’s emotional state even if they aren’t usually friendly.
Nobody I have ever said this to has responded negatively.
I once said this to a woman called Tracy (not really but she would kill me if I said her real name) who looked like she would eat me for breakfast. She was tense and alert and when I introduced myself by saying how friendly she looked, she melted, and now we are still friends to this day. Since we are now friends I’ve been able to joke with her about how ‘unfriendly’ she looked the first time we met and she jokes back that I wasn’t being authentic if I said that and she didn’t look friendly, but sometimes the greater good must prevail!
2. I see you at these all the times and I’ve always wanted to say hi but you’re so popular! My name is…
Of course, this opener will only be suitable if you have actually seen this person before and haven’t said hi, but this happens to me so frequently that it’s always genuine.
People love to be thought of as
- Busy as it implies productive and
- Popular as it implies social proof.
The bottom line is that you’re going to see the same people at networking events time and time again and this is perfect for those moments. Give it a try and you’ll definitely get some incredible results.
3. You look like someone I should definitely be speaking to. Hi my name is…
This is something I like to call an intrigue opener. It hints you know something about them that tells you they are important in some way and as Dale Carnegie said in his fabulous book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ everyone is on a quest for importance.
The next question you’ll likely be asked after this introduction could be ‘why do you say that?’ and you better have a good response for this.
My favourites include:
‘You look so well put together’
‘You just seem so comfortable in this environment’
Or, if you really do know something interesting or exciting about them you can say why it is. Maybe they are known in their field for something; maybe you read an article of theirs, or maybe you overheard a conversation of theirs earlier.
Whatever you do at this point, don’t be false and most importantly: make them feel important.
4. This looks like the mastermind group! Hi, I’m …
This is great for breaking into a group.
Will Kintish is a master on networking skills and he gives an incredible blueprint of what a good networker sees when they look at a room of people. There are typically only 5 types of groups:
- Open couples
- Closed couples
- Open groups
- Closed groups
Only use this opener with an open group or open couple and say it loud and bold enough for everyone to hear. You’ll get a laugh, possibly ironically.
This works on multiple levels. If they are not enjoying the conversation they will enjoy the comment as it injects new life into their group dynamic and they’ll all be relieved to have a chance to see what you bring or exit.
If they know each other they will think you said that because of their strong chemistry, or if they don’t know each other but they were enjoying the conversation they will think you overheard a salient point and wanted to join them.
It will work. You just have to be bold enough to enter an open group, or even an open couple and say it with enough gusto to get a warm reception. It will not work on closed couples or groups as they will be deep into conversation. Feel free to try it, but expect looks of discomfort or even anger!
This can work really well with individuals as well if you say it with a cheeky smile. Better still, if there are a few individuals nearby who are not engaged fully in conversation it can be helpful to bring them together.
5. Hi my name is ….Who are you looking to meet this evening?
This opener works well for more bolshy people who don’t mind cutting to the chase scene. It’s a great way to get down to business, especially if you notice that the person is hunting for someone to talk to.
I often use this opener as it implies that I’m looking to help them, right off the bat. Why else would I ask such a question?
Once they tell you, if they know, you can do one of a few things:
Offer them your services if you do that or offer to use theirs and make it sound like the biggest coincidence since
Mention someone you know who does that or is looking for that service and then hook them up
Discuss their needs more and then make a deal that you will look for the perfect person for them and then tell them what you’re looking for.
Don’t force your desired prospect on them. They’ll usually be prompted to ask in return how they can help you, but if they don’t then avoid saying ‘oh and by the way I want to meet’… just accept that this person might not be as good at networking as you and then let them know you will keep your eyes peeled.
Can’t I use typical openers when networking?
Naturally, if you prefer to just use a ‘Hi how are you?’ or ‘What do you do?’ approach to networking then feel free, but these openers are neither: memorable, interesting, or helpful to the other person.
The best networking I ever received was to compliment someone within the first ten seconds. It just sets you up for such a positive conversation if you say it with confidence, authenticity, and with a nice smile.
Good luck in getting out there to win some hearts with your networking openers and most importantly just try new things. Say whatever comes to mind at the time and then make a mental note of how people responded.
I’ll do a post about some terrible openers I’ve used soon and why I think they didn’t work.
In the meantime if you want any help for you or your team on communication or confidence skills when presenting or networking just get in touch.
Until then, get off LinkedIn and into the real world and try out some of these networking openers.