You know those terribly awkward conversations making you question your own awkwardness and conversation skills for the very first time? In no way, shape, or form could we be the awkward ones, right? We especially don’t want to feel this way at a networking event, of all places.
Whether you are a current employer attending a networking event or a job seeker looking to land your next position, chatting with someone you have nothing in common with is the ultimate fear for many of us.
Within seconds of a conversation we judge the communication skills and the potential for awkwardness of those we are speaking to, whether we realize it or not. How to survive an awkward networking conversation needs to be common knowledge to all. The following tips will help you avoid the awkward silence in response to the dreaded comments about the weather, at best, or something completely irrelevant and embarrassing, at worst:
1. Ask Questions
People love to talk about themselves, plain and simple. The standard networking questions inquiring about their current professional roles, how they got to where they are now, and why they chose this field are all relevant communication starters. If you already know the two of you are not going to hit it off, avoid slipping in a witty joke. If you aren’t clicking from the beginning, chances are your definition of funny is not the same as theirs. Stick with the networking questions. It is a networking event, after all.
2. Act Interested
Being overwhelmingly bored in a conversation but appearing to be extremely engaged and interested is a little trick of the trade in the business world. By smiling, frequently nodding your head, and throwing out a few questions here and there will encourage your fellow networker to continue talking. By acting incredibly intrigued by what they have to say, you will find a simple escape from having to share your own stories. Remember, he or she may be a bore, but their network may be highly valuable to you. Avoid letting them know how you truly feel about the conversation.
3. Exit Smoothly
Luckily, at a networking event you have a lot of things to do and many people to see. By making a good impression for a few minutes, you have the right to politely transition out of the conversation and move on. Having to make your rounds or check in with your boss are completely acceptable ways to shuffle on out of there.
Tough conversations are, well, tough. We all dread them and we all hope to avoid them. If you can manage to stifle your frustration and paste a smile on your face you will be able to survive any interaction lacking the cohesive touch.
Have you ever been stuck in an overwhelmingly awkward networking conversation? What did you do to make it out alive?
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at ComeRecommended!
About the Author: Brittany Troyer graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in public relations and an A.A. in business in May 2012. Prior to joining the team, Brittany has gained experience in communications through multiple internships and freelance experience, both in the area as well as Barcelona, Spain. Follow Brittany on Twitter!