Networking: What To Say

You know networking is the key to getting a job, not to mention succeeding in your career, right?  But maybe you are bit shy, a bit introverted.  Maybe networking is hard for you.  (If it is, here are some tips from yesterday’s U.S. News & World Report post.)

Working Girl understands.  She’s a shy type herself.  Getting started is the hardest.  So here’s a list of possible first lines:

1.  This is  my first time here.  Who do you think I need to meet?

2.  I just got here.  Did I miss anything?

3.  What do you do?

4.  How did you get into (whatever their career is)?

5.  Do you like it?

6. What’s new?

7.  Where did you get that (fabulous purse?  snazzy tie?  cool laptop?)?

8.  The freeway was like a parking lot this morning.  Did you have trouble getting here too?

9.  That was a great speaker.  What do you think?

10.  How are you?

11.  What brings you to this event today?

12.  What’s new with your business these days?

13.  Can you believe this rain/snow/heat/cold/lovely weather?

Do these sound stupid?  Guess what?  It doesn’t matter.  The most important thing to remember is that it’s not so much what you say, it’s that you say something.


  • Melissa says:

    As a person who has mostly overcome her shyness (but regresses from time to time), I don’t think those sound stupid at all. You need something to break the ice when you’re the new kid on the block, and those suggestions all work well.

    One I would add is, “Hi, I’m Melissa!”

  • Rick Saia says:

    These are nice “ice breaker” questions WG, and good for any introvert who finds it hard meeting and talking with people. I especially like how most of these questions are outwardly focused rather than on the needs of the person asking the question.

  • ita olsen says:

    nice, working girl! good point: it’s important to say something–will get you much further then nothing!

    i do communication skills training for a living & i especially like 1, 2, 4, 9 & 11. i ask my clients to refrain from discussing the weather or even asking strangers what they do at first meeting. (sometimes it puts people off…)

    melissa’s suggestion is great, too! hi, melissa! (see? it evokes a response!)

    be sure to use a smile, a warm/firm handshake & repeat the person’s name when they give it to you.

    check out my youtube channel for my take on it!

    great site, working girl! i’m gonna follow you on twitter!



  • Maria Helm says:

    These are great opening lines! I’m a shy type, too, and took me lots of practice to get somewhat comfortable talking to strangers. The key is just go out there, be yourself, and network! Thanks for sharing.

  • Mike says:

    Those do seem a bit bland, if a stranger walked up to me and said “What’s new”, I would not be impressed. Half of them are thoughful/interesting, the rest seem to just be there for the sake of rounding off a list of 10. While I do completely agree that saying something is much more important than what you say, it should at least be something worth responding to. The worst thing to do is to get someone’s attention, and then waste their time.

  • Adam Sterling says:

    I am taking the time to reply at length to this post in hope of preventing women and men looking for advice on how to overcome shyness in professional environments from replicating the basic mistakes promoted in the article.

    First, some good advice to counter the bad: My wife of 20 years was extremely shy in public to the extent that it hindered her professional progress. She remedied this by joining a local chapter of Toastmasters International. Toastmasters is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people develop public speaking skills. There is a chapter near you.

    Developing speaking skills also develops social skills in large or small groups and one-on-one. Toastmasters has a highly structured development program. Dues are modest. Critique is always friendly and helpful.

    Like all skills, these take time to build. Over time I watched my wife grow in wonderful ways. Today, she is the managing director of a boutique investment bank and has been a featured speaker at international forums.

    Now, my critique of this post:

    1. Asking another person who you ought to meet insults them by assuming others are more important than they are. Each person you meet should feel THEY are the person you hope to meet. Isn’t that how you feel?

    2. Wrong. Being late to a meeting or event is unprofessional. Pointing out your tardiness is an error. Use your five senses to catch up with and joint the flow.

    3. Sorry, no. Create interest by introducing yourself and including what you do.

    4. Again, no. Open with the story of what got you into your career. People will be flattered that you choose to share a bit of your life and will respond in kind.

    5. Don’t merely ask if a person likes anything. Open with your opinion. It’s valid. They will reply in kind.

    6. Absolutely not. Open with what is new in your business, unless you already know the person rather well.

    7. Wrong! Women, learn how to accessorize. Men, learn how to dress. Learn how to spell Hermes. Laptops have large labels.

    8. Sorry, this is trivia. Trivia is always trivial.

    9. If you want to be sought out again, try adding an insight to what the speaker said or offering a comment on a specific remark made by the speaker. This shows that you think. Thinking is attractive.

    10. If you’ve met the person before, yes. If not, no. A person unknown to you may be in ill health, a sure conversation killer, or as happened to me when I asked exactly this, may have just lost a child.

    11. Wrong. Professional events have a topic. That topic brought everyone.

    12. If you’ve met them before, yes. If not, open with what’s new in YOUR business. You may well be making an important contact.

    13. Never. Why? Because, yes, they can.

    In answer to this question: “Do these sound stupid?” Yes. And once consigned to that bin it’s nearly impossible for a person to escape.

    Paraphrasing: The most important thing is not that you say “something,” but that you say something that opens doors and affirms your best self. Doing these things puts others at ease.

    Trust me about this: They’re as nervous as you are.

    Adam Sterling.

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