How to Strike up a Conversation at a Conference

Many of us attend conferences for professional development.  We’d like to expand our job knowledge and bring the outside in.  But, it’s also a great time to step outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. Here are a few tips on how to be ready to strike up a conversation at your next event:

Study the headlines.

Before heading to the conference, scan the headlines or consider what is new and interesting in your industry and note a few potential topics to discuss.

Maintain eye contact.

When introducing yourself, smile and look into the person’s eyes as you speak your name and they say theirs. As the conversation continues, keep your focus on the person you are talking with. Don’t scan the room looking for friends or others to meet.

Gesture openly.

Avoid crossing your arms or clutching your drink with both hands as you talk. Instead, try and keep your hands apart and your arms relaxed. Gesturing makes you appear natural and approachable.

Ask a few questions.

Sometimes you’ll need to jump start their side of the conversation. Try asking an open-ended question like “What were you hoping to learn while you’re here?” If their answer is short, build on the information they’ve just shared.

Find a connection.

As they’re answering your questions, find an element to pick up on. You’re listening for something to keep the conversation going. Find common ground and the conversation will continue without effort.

Speak slowly and pause.

Keep the dialogue moving at a casual pace. If you talk too quickly, the listener will strain to keep up or may interpret your speedy delivery as a sign of nervousness.

Disengage politely.

After a few minutes, it’s perfectly fine to close the conversation. Exchange contact information, if you’d like. Ask them to join you on a trip to the buffet. Or, simply smile, tell them you enjoyed chatting and move on.

We hope you meet lots of interesting people at HRWest. Just start with “hello” and go from there.

Have other tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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