How to Connect with Someone
If you’re not sure about how to get started at a networking meeting, start here. Marilyn Feldstein, owner of Career Choices Unlimited, spoke at our CareerSource Professional Network meeting. Her presentation, “Small Talk Can Open Big Doors,” offered these tips for getting started meeting people you don’t know at conferences or other meetings.
- Introduce yourself. Approach the person you want to speak to and say, “Hello, I’m (your name here).” Marilyn recommends adding a firm handshake, warm smile, and confident eye contact. It may sound easy, but you should check with a friend or family member to make sure you have all three.
- Start up a conversation. Marilyn recommends something simple to get things started. “I’ve seen you here at several meetings, and wanted to get to know you. What do you find most helpful at these events?” or “How long have you been coming to these events?” Make sure your question is open-ended (one that doesn’t allow for a yes or no answer).
- Be in the moment. Marilyn says that many people have trouble maintaining eye contact and staying focused on one person at large meetings. There’s nothing worse than letting your gaze dart around the room while speaking to someone, she says. It makes it look like you’re looking for someone more important to show up. She also says that people sometimes lose track of their body language, resulting in negative body messages that contradict their positive mental attitude. Try to maintain friendly eye contact and relaxed and open posture while engaged in conversation.
- Keep the conversation going. Marilyn has started hundreds of conversations over the years and kept them going simply by looking for connections that she has in common with the person she’s speaking to. In a city like Jacksonville, you can find many things you have in common… places you’ve worked, people you’ve worked with—even a favorite restaurant or shop. Your connections may even result in new leads for employment—in addition to making new friends. That alone makes it worthwhile to practice this skill, even if you’re naturally shy.