Do you find it difficult to meet new people at a networking session or any other social setting? It has taken me a lot of practice, but with time, I have gotten much better and more confident. Here are some tips to overcome that nervousness.
- Go with a purpose to meet a certain number of people at the event and how long you want to stay there for. Give yourself a break after a while by going to enjoy some food and drinks. It helps to visualize yourself in the situation: feeling calm, enjoying yourself, talking to people and making new acquaintances.
- It is easiest to approach individuals who are standing alone. Remember that they may be feeling as uncomfortable as you. Start with a smile, make eye contact and say “Hello”. Most times people will respond and smile back at you.
- Introduce yourself clearly. Many times we rush through our introduction and may not remember each other’s name soon after meeting. Use the person’s name as soon as you hear it. If you cannot pronounce their name, ask them to repeat it slowly or spell it out.
- Having a name card ready helps. Do use both hands to give yours and to receive theirs. Look at the name card for a moment and repeat their name as it may help you remember their name better.
- Respect the person’s territory and personal space. Do not stand too close, touch them unnecessarily or cling to any group you join. Be sensitive to the signals sent out by others.
- Start the conversation with some small talk about the event you are at, the place or even the food. You can ask questions, but try to avoid questions that elicit “yes” or “no” answers. This can lead to uncomfortable pauses or it ends the conversation if you are unable to think of other questions to follow up. Instead of just asking questions, you can also share some interesting facts or your opinion on the topic.
- Have a few topics in mind on what to talk about. Keep the questions general; do not ask anything personal, money related or other sensitive topics like religion and politics. You can talk about mutual interests like hobbies, sports, travel or current affairs. It is easiest to talk about work, but sometimes this may not be so appropriate. Be aware if you are boring them or are touching on a subject that is sensitive or taboo. When it is necessary to change the subject, do so tactfully.
- Be a good listener. Being so is more important than what you may say. Show you are genuinely interested and do not get distracted. Look at the person who is speaking and ask him to repeat if you are not sure or ask questions to clarify. Do not keep re-phrasing every sentence or finishing the statements for him. Try not to ignore the feelings of the person. Making insensitive comments after hearing what has been said is socially suicidal.
- Self-confidence comes with practice. If you believe you can succeed at it, you will. Believe in yourself and be confident. Do not worry about what others think, just do your best. You never know until you try.
- Have FUN! Start with the mindset that no matter what happens, you are going to enjoy yourself. It helps you overcome any faux pas as you will be able to see the lighter side of things.
Some Conversation Killers / Dampers
- Talking too much or too little.
- Sharing too many personal details.
- Constantly talking about yourself.
- Trying to be funny all the time.
- Being foul or swearing.
- Criticism or excessive flattery.
- Constantly interrupting.
- Overusing terms of endearment like dear, which can be patronising.
- Correcting a person’s grammar or pronunciation.
- Speaking another language in front of those who cannot understand it.