When you go to a business networking event, you’ll meet a lot of new people. But the reality is, you’ll have quality conversations with only one to three people.

To work the room effectively and have those quality conversations, here are a few pointers and samples to start and end conversations with ease.

How to break into a conversation and introduce yourself.

1) If there’s someone in particular you want to meet, ask around to see who knows them. It might be a good idea to ask the event organizer. When you find someone, chit chat a bit (see conversation starters below), but don’t end the conversation without moving on to #2 below.

2) Before you end the conversation, ask the person if they’ll introduce you to someone else. Let them know who or the type of person you want to meet, such as a good power or referral partners for your company.

3) If two people are engaged in conversation, walk up to them and stand nearby quietly and, if you’re at a CERTUS networking event, they’ll invite you to join in. If they don’t, shame on them. This is not what we were hoping for. Feel free to move on or simply begin contributing to the conversation.

4) If a small group of folks are engaged in conversation, look for an opening in their “circle” and step in. Listen quietly and wait for a break in conversation to greet one of the people next to you or begin contributing to the conversation.

5) If contributing to an existing conversation feels awkward to you, just listen. When the group begins to disband and pair off into separate conversations, now is a great opportunity to approach one of the people and initiate conversation. You might consider bringing up something they said that was interesting to you.

A note to seasoned networkers: Don’t close the circle. If you’re in conversation with a small group of professionals, looks at your formation. Are you standing in a circle with no space for someone new to enter? If yes, position yourself to create a break in the circle. This encourages someone new folks to join the conversation. It’s the new people you want to meet anyway.

You’ve got their attention, now what?

A great way to begin a conversation is by asking the person an open-ended question:

“What do you think of this event?”

“How long have you been networking with this group? What do you like about it?”

“Tell me about your company.”

“What’s coming up in your company that you’re excited about?”

“Do you have any big plans for the weekend?”

How to build instant rapport when you meet someone new at a networking event.

How to end conversations with ease.

Ending a conversation can feel unsettling because you don’t want anyone to think (or know) you don’t enjoy speaking with them. Regardless, there are ways to end conversations on a positive note and with a firm handshake.

Would any of these sample conversation enders work for you? Add your own twist to suit your personality.

“Marie, I’ve really enjoyed talking about hiking (or whatever). I promised myself I would meet and speak to at least three people today. I’ll be sure to check out the website you mentioned.”

”We should probably mingle and meet others. Can I get your business card? I’ll connect you with any (insert appropriate profession) I think might be good referral partners for you.”

“Mark, it’s been great chatting with you. You should meet Libby, she’s a bookkeeper and may be a good referral partner for your accounting practice. Follow me and I’ll introduce you (make the introduction). I’m going to go mingle and will let you two connect. It was great meeting you Mark.”

“I think we may be able to help one another. Are you interested in talking more over coffee? (schedule the appointment) Great, I’m going to continue mingling. I look forward to chatting more on Thursday.”

“I need to excuse myself… there’s someone I need to say hello to. It was great meeting you.”

“I’m headed to get more coffee, can I get you anything?”

“I need to start saying my goodbyes. It was great meeting you.”

What tips do you have for breaking into, or ending, conversations at networking events?
Sabrina Risley

Sabrina Risley

Sabrina Risley is a master connector. She’s been hosting live networking events since 2004 and has welcomed 20,000+ professionals to those events. She shares her observations, insights and tips of how the top 2% of effective and magnetic networkers build their businesses. She also shares what NOT to do when networking. Get her complimentary e-book: Strategic Networking for Success.
Sabrina Risley