Perhaps the one situation that causes problems for many is meeting new people and socializing at business events. Many people are uncomfortable about walking into a room full of strangers and meeting people they don’t know. If this describes “you,” then you are not alone.
Communication or social skills can be learned. Once you master the basic communication skills then start by using them in situations where you feel comfortable. As you develop more confidence, you will integrate these new techniques in the business environment; at work and business events.
The first skill to understand and recognize is how you communicate through body language. Over 70% of communication is nonverbal. Body language communicates our confidence level and attitude before we speak. First impressions are extremely important. It is important that you smile, have an open posture stance whether standing or sitting, lean toward the person while speaking or listening, engage in a friendly handshake, and always make eye-contact. Also, providing non-verbal feedback to a speaker by nodding sends the message that you listening to what is being said.
The following information is helpful to start and continue conversations.
- Initial encounter. Communication is an active role. Upon meeting a person for the first time, smile, say hello, and introduce yourself. Maintain eye-contact throughout the conversation.
- Break the ice. Engaging a person in a conversation is as easy as asking an initial question or complementing them on something they wear. Questions should be open-ended rather than a simple “yes” or “no.” So, questions such as “What brings you to this event?” or “How did you hear about this event?” requires a response that enables you to get to know the person a little more than a question such as “Where are you coming from?”
- Seek more information. As you listen to answers to questions, most likely some information will be revealed that you have in common. This is the perfect time to state the similarities; you will begin to feel comfortable in the conversation. As you can see, this doesn’t take too long or too much effort to begin to feel relaxed communicating with a stranger.
- Keep the conversation going. As you begin to know a little about the person with whom you are speaking, then provide some information about yourself. This makes the other person feel a little more comfortable. Continue to talk about the topics that are important to you, the event, or common interests and experiences.
- Seek to stay connected. Closing a conversation is not difficult when you look at all meetings as networking opportunities. During a lull in the conversation, you can ask for a business card and state that you would like to include the person in your network. If you really get along well, you can plan to see the person again by setting a meeting for the future. Good-byes are short, warm, and friendly.