My office is part of a local business networking group. It's been a great way to get to know other companies personally. The whole idea behind it is that when you need a plumber or a new insurance provider I will know someone personally that I can confidently recommend to you. Every Friday this group gets together to do said networking.
There is nothing more daunting than entering a room full of people engaged in conversation. Who do you talk to? Do you wait for someone to come up to you? Do you look for your one friend in the group? Do you try to look really interested in a picture on the wall? It can be seriously awkward.
I have the answer! Well part of the answer. Let's talk the Open Conversation. Let's say you enter the room, and you are standing at the door. Look around at the groups of people in front of you. (Do not mock my diagram!)
An open conversation is one where the group of people are facing outward, welcoming others to join. A closed conversation is just that, closed off from others. People in a closed conversation are most likely having a private discussion. An open conversation can be a group of one person or more. Think of a semicircle of people, as long as the circle isn't closed you can join! A closed conversation can be two people or more. Technically one person can close themselves off from a conversation also (think: someone reading a book).
When approaching a group look for people whose bodies are open toward you, and join them!
Now, the hard part is actually joining in on the conversation. That's a post for another day. But, I've given you the first step! I can't tell you how many times I use this trick. There will always be situations where you don't feel very comfortable, but it helps to analyze your surroundings and get a feel for the room before you jump in. This is a great strategy for navigating parties, work events, or even backyard bbq's!
Leave me a comment: Have you tried this technique for joining conversations? What is the hardest part for you? Do you have any tricks that have helped you feel more comfortable in a networking situation?