Does the thought of going to an event and networking make your heart race and palms sweat and give you a slightly sick feeling in the pit of your stomach?

What about having to go to a party where you don't know anyone and making small talk?

If so, you're not alone!

Publicity expert Selena Soo kept hearing from entrepreneurs who invested time and money to attend an event and then walked out, feeling both had been wasted because they weren't able to make connections.

  • People who end up standing in a corner on their iPhone, pretending to be doing something important because they felt too shy to approach people
  • Others who had big hopes of connecting with the speakers or other influencers, but then had no idea what to say when they were finally within arm's reach
  • Those who collected a stack of business cards but never followed up with anyone because they didn't think they mattered

So what can you do to get more out of your next event? One suggestion is to simply start with small talk. (Side note: Hate the term small talk? Me too! So just think of it as "light conversation.")

Why is small talk important? According to Soo:

"Many of us want to have meaningful conversations, and that's great. At the same time, though, when you're meeting someone for the first time, it might be too much if you dive into the deeper topics right away. So it's OK to start with small talk."

In her "Ultimate Guide to Meeting People at Events," she offers these conversation hacks.

17 Simple Conversation Starters

  1. What's your favorite part of the event so far?
  2. Which speaker are you most excited about hearing?
  3. How did you hear about the event? / What brought you to this event?
  4. I love your [article of clothing]. Where did you get it?
  5. Hi, I'm [name]. I don't believe we've met yet.
  6. Hi, I'm [name]. I think I met you at XYZ event. Were you there?
  7. Hi, I saw your name on the invitation list. I'm excited to get a chance to connect!
  8. What do you do?
  9. How did you get started in your line of work?
  10. What do you love most about your work?
  11. What are you most excited about in your business right now?
  12. What is your biggest need in your business right now?
  13. Your business sounds amazing. What are the typical ways you find your clients?
  14. Who is your ideal client?
  15. Who are some of your favorite experts or authors?
  16. What's your favorite restaurant in the city?
  17. Are you traveling anywhere exciting this year?

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

Put your ego aside and challenge yourself to say nice things to other people. As Soo reminds us,

"People find you interesting when they feel like you find them interesting. And paying someone a compliment is an easy way to open a conversation."

Some simple examples are:

  1. I love your dress.
  2. I love the question you asked during the Q&A.
  3. I'm a fan of your blog.

Your compliments don't have to be complicated or over the top--but they should always be sincere.

Take an interest in others and how you can help them and you'll be amazed at how different your next event experience will be.

In the words of legendary salesperson and networker Zig Ziglar:

"You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want."