Yes, you read that headline right; today’s topic is all about the best ways to ‘pickup’ at a networking event. Because networking events can sometimes feel like singles night at the bar  — there’s a room full of strangers and as a business owner, your goal is to strike up a conversation with as many new people as possible. 

For many business owners, these types of business development events are easier said than done. Some even shudder at the idea of mingling (but don’t worry, here’s some great tips for mastering the art of mingling.) Approaching a stranger at a networking event and opening up a conversation can be daunting. We offer 5 great one-liners to get you started.

1) “That’s a great shirt/scarf/lapel/necklace!” Before you even leave for the event, choose an item that you feel comfortable wearing that helps you stand out. Maybe it’s a lapel pin, a great pair of shoes, a paisley shirt or a bright scarf. All of these types of items make for great icebreaker conversations and they take some of the pressure off because someone is bound to approach you and say something like: “I never know what to do at these events so I always talk to the person with the best pair of shoes.”

2) “Is this seat taken?” Don’t sulk in the corner with a sour look on your face, instead, put on a smile and stand where people will notice you. If you see someone you want to talk to, don’t be furtive about it. Make eye contact and walk purposely towards them. If someone makes eye contact with you, smile so that he or she feels comfortable to walk over to you.

3) “How’s the wine?” Diving right in for the information you’re after is the fastest way to scare someone off. Instead, take a low-pressure approach to asking questions. If you’re at a cocktail party, ask what they’re drinking and if it’s any good; if you’re at a breakfast event, ask if there’s anything on the menu that they’d recommend. And if, like you, they’re wearing something that stands out, comment on it. All of these low-pressure topics break the ice and ease you into a deeper conversation.

4) “Tell me about yourself.” No matter where you are, you can always start a conversation by asking a question. “What do you do?” is fine, but open-ended questions are much better. “What do you like best about you do?” invites a greater response and opens up the conversation. So do ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Whatever you do, avoid conversation-killer questions. These are ones that need only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response and are sure to make any conversation fall flat, leaving you both awkwardly searching for something else to say.

5) “Nice weather we’re having.” Negative attitudes turn people off and motivate them to find a reason to excuse themselves from talking to you. Even the simplest negative comment about the weather or the traffic can make someone feel uncomfortable and unsure of what to say next. Instead of complaining about the rain when someone mentions the weather to break the ice, try saying something like: “I’d rather it wasn’t raining, but I’ll take rain over snow any day.”

Attending networking events is a great marketing strategy for your business but remember; you’re out to make a good first impression. As a general rule, don’t complain about anything while you’re there — especially the food, drink or music because you never know if the person you’re talking to played a part in planning the event. And that would not only be awkward but is unlikely to garner you the kind of attention you’re looking for.

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