Russ Ross from The Social Collective is here to help you connect.
Events can sometimes be pretty daunting, especially when you know there’s a lot of important people in the room and you have a limited time to impress. So what shall one do to make a positive connection with someone, outside of just smiling and making eye contact?
1. Don’t overthink it
It’s easy to get stuck in your head worrying about what other people will think about you. This will only lead to mind blanks. Just stop, take a deep breath and adopt the following new mindset: “I am approaching to see if I will like them, not to see if they will like me.”
2. Don’t wait to be introduced
We naturally have a “waiting mentality” (let others go first) and typically we miss out on opportunities to meet new people. So take the risk and introduce yourself. It shows self-confidence and social leadership.
3. Don’t talk all about yourself
Talk about them. Take a genuine interest in the person you are chatting to and steer the conversation to talk about the things they are passionate about. You will connect, they will like you for it and they won’t even realise why.
4. Voice an opinion
There is nothing more forgettable than a person who agreeably blends into a conversation. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion or respectfully disagree with theirs. It demonstrates individuality and shows you are engaged in the conversation. Just don’t be too overbearing though, as you’ll come across as rude.
5. Find commonalities
Fish for commonalities (which suburb they live in, which university they attended) then navigate the conversation around them. This will instantly build rapport and take the energy and emotion in the conversation to a positive place.
6. Be the point of difference
Avoid asking the same old questions, “What do you do for work?” or “Where are you from?” Instead, make a statement. “The last presenter on finance was so interesting” or “This event has been really well organised”. Such statements will set you apart from everyone else and will switch the other person from autopilot to conscious discussion, allowing you to connect from the very start.
7. Get expressive
Just because you get asked a boring question, doesn’t mean you need to give a boring answer. Be more creative. Instead of saying “I’m a building engineer” consider expressing “I design buildings and have a real passion for architecture”. Why? We connect with people over their passions and values.
8. Let them be the expert
When someone tells you what they do, don’t be afraid to say “tell me more” and have them explain what the “front of house manager” actually means, rather that just nodding. People love to explain things they are good at. It makes them feel valuable, interesting and relevant.
9. Be present
This is non-negotiable. If you truly want to leave a good first impression, don’t scan the room for someone better to talk to and don’t keep looking at your phone. Keep good eye contact, actively listen to what is being said and interact with the conversation.
10. Work out an exit strategy
Everyone knows that “just popping to the toilet” is code for “I’m bored and I want out.” It’s an instant rapport killer. Develop an exit strategy that will work for both of you. Say something like “It was nice meeting you, will you excuse me while I just say hello to a friend? Maybe we can chat again later.” It demonstrates that you’re socially aware, considerate and honest.