Does the thought of talking to someone new at a conference make you want to run for the hills?

Don't worry, you are not alone! While it can be quite daunting to initiate conversations with strangers, there are so many benefits and learning opportunities to them. Here are some strategies you can try next time!

Running Away

Find Somebody To Sit Beside

It might be easier to just sit by yourself, but try to get out of your comfort zone. Find someone to sit beside and initiate an organic conversation.

Even a simple "Is this seat taken?" can break the ice. There is a lot of common ground that you can use to start a conversation in these scenarios including:

  1. the speaker

  2. the topic

  3. the content covered

Sitting beside someone

Quiz

When is the right time to find opportunities to initiate conversation?

During breaks between speaker sessions

During breakfast & lunch time

Right before or after speaker sessions

All of these

Think About A Few Questions In Advance

Don't expect your seatmate to start a conversation! Have a few simple, open-ended questions ready to get the other person talking.

Some examples are:

  • What has been your favourite session so far?

  • Why did you decide to attend this particular conference?

  • Which session are you looking forward to the most?

Inspector gadget thinking

Quiz

Which of the following is an example of a good open-ended question to start a conversation?

Have you been to this conference before?

What sessions are you attending today?

Did you like this session?

Have you heard this speaker before?

Bond Over Things You Have In Common

During your conversation, you may find things you have in common like:

  • your roles

  • what your department does

  • challenges you are facing

  • initiatives you have tried

Bonding over these things can help make your interactions more memorable and could even start a professional relationship beyond the conference.

high-fiving

Put Away Your Devices

If you're on your phone or laptop, you may miss a lot of things happening around you, and you'll appear less approachable.

It's acceptable to respond to important emails and return phone calls, but make sure you set out some device-free time so that you can engage in meaningful conversations.

Closing laptop

Take Action

Next time you are at a conference, try these techniques. Even if you initiate a conversation with just one person — that's a great start!

shaking hands

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This Byte has been authored by

KV

Karishma Vaz

Learning Content Developer