The opening minutes of a face-to-face meeting at a networking event sets the tone for the rest of your conversation with peers. Even though you may not know each other personally, it's important to introduce yourself and set aside the first few minutes for something other than business talk.
Most of the time, you'll be unfamiliar with the person you're introducing yourself to, so it's important not to have a drawn out awkward silence. Through practice and repetition, many business people have developed their own unique and fun icebreakers to set the mood--but here are five new ideas for you to bring to your next networking event:
1. My Slogan
Everybody has different experiences and different skill sets, why not create a slogan for yourself in preparation for a social event? "My Slogan" is an icebreaker where each person writes a slogan to describe themselves. This icebreaker is a great way for people to present themselves in a unique and creative way.
This can also let you get a feel for whomever you're meeting and can provide a steady springboard into another topic or how they've gotten to where they are now. Ultimately, this icebreaker is a good way to warm up the room by letting your creative side loose. After this, you both should be more comfortable with each other and ready to talk business.
2. The Morning After
This icebreaker is perfect for anyone trying to get a read on what people like to do after hours. "The Morning After" icebreaker has everyone say what they did the night before. This can help you get a clearer picture on what people around you like to do for fun and it can open a door to other discussions about leisure activities or hobbies you may have in common with one another.
3. Lucky Penny
If you know a prospect at the event is a history buff, try this icebreaker out with them. "Lucky Penny" has you and your prospect take out a penny, or any coin for that matter, and look at the date of the coin.
You both then take turns and try to recall something that happened in the year on your coin. If you're lucky, you can hopefully recall something that happened regarding your business in the year on your coin.
4. The Social Question
Let's be honest, networking events can sometimes be dull and most people would rather be doing something else, so a refreshing icebreaker is "The Social Question." This icebreaker allows you to ask whomever you're talking to, "If you weren't at this event today, what would you like to be doing?" This is another great way to figure out what your client likes to do outside of work and gives you an opportunity to find some common ground.
5. Entertainment Interests
This icebreaker is great if you know someone loves music, movies or books. It's a fun conversation in general, and can be used to your advantage as an icebreaker to get the mood relaxed and lighthearted.
With "Entertainment Interests" someone starts out by saying the name of a show, or book they like, and the next person follows. Talking about "Game of Thrones" or the latest Jay-Z album can be fun to dive into if you're both fans. However, be aware of how time flies because talking about things you both enjoy can be fun, yet may take a while to digress.
Icebreakers provide an opportunity for you to get to know someone better and to also avoid the dreaded awkward silence. It's important to remember to avoid the initial awkward silence but also to not to get lost in the icebreaker.
Icebreakers are extremely efficient in being able to create a conversation, but you must stay focused on your goal and to not get carried away with nonbusiness conversations--you can save the more in depth social chatter for later, after you start talking business.