Small Talk, Ice Breakers and Conversations – The Shy Professional’s Guide to Networking

Small Talk, Ice Breakers and Conversations – The Shy Professional’s Guide to Networking

Attending networking events can be a bit frightening for those of us who identify as shy, introverts, or simply are not fond of speaking to multiple people in a short amount of time. However, if you want to get ahead in your career, you need to attend networking events and grow your professional network. If you are a tad bit shy or nervous about starting small talk with other professionals, use these tips!

Icebreakers have a purpose


Icebreakers are designed to help you identify if the individual you are conversing with is a potential connection for your growing professional network. If you are nervous about starting small talk with someone you’ve never met before or even heard of, use a simple, but conversation enticing, ice breaker.

But wait, before you start the conversation, remember to introduce yourself. It will be a bit off-putting if you simply plunge into a conversation without introducing yourself to the person you are networking with.

Common icebreaker questions include:

  • Do you work in the area? What company?
  • What is your line of work? (Disclaimer: if you’re at a networking event for people in your particular profession, it’s smart to skip this question!)
  • How did you get involved in….?

Remember, these are icebreaker questions, not full conversation starters. It’d be a bit odd to jump into a conversation without learning a bit of crucial information first. Imagine if someone came up to you and said “What did you think of the latest Atlanta Braves game?”, and you have no interest in baseball or the Atlanta Braves. A bit awkward right?

Continue the conversation

Once you’ve gathered the courage to spark a conversation using an icebreaker, it’s time to continue the conversation. You cannot simply ask one question and walk away, that’d be a bit unprofessional. It is now time to continue the conversation.

How do you accomplish this? By actively and intently listening to the responses of your future connection and responding accordingly. Do not let your conversation be one sided. You need to respond, ask more questions, interject your thoughts and opinions professionally, and ultimately learn more about the individual.

This is when you can determine their personal interests and ask more broad or acutely related questions, such as:

  • Do you have any hobbies?
  • What organizations or charities are you a part of?
  • Do you enjoy (sports, music, specific topics, etc.)?
  • Have any summer vacation plans?

The key to successful networking is the ability to courageously start a conversation with an intriguing icebreaker and continue the conversation through active listening and communication skills.

Come try your networking skills out at the next Sertoma Club of Nashville meeting.