Nancy Fox, one of the most charming and graceful people I've ever met, outlined her top icebreaking strategies for networking.
"Breaking the ice is difficult because people's attention span is so much smaller nowadays, and you have only a few seconds to make a good first impression," she said one a webinar sponsored by LawMarketing. She has coached hundreds of attorneys in marketing, business development and networking.
"Lawyers want to convert our new connections and book follow-up meetings with new people. We we want to use our networking efforts to launch new referral relationships," she said. "But for many of us it's uncomfortable to enter a room with people we don't know." For this she offers 10 strategies:
- Be prepared. Arrive ready with icebreaker questions, like #11 from her eBook, "What business books have you read recently that you've found valuable?" or #26, "Tell me how you got into your business?"
- Be proactive. "Make the first move and thus take the pressure off the other person. They will be grateful and pleased that you've broken the ice."
- Make consistent eye contact. "This is essential because people really believe when you make eye contact that you are interested in them and are committed to the conversation. If your eyes are wandering, they'll feel that you don't really care."
- Break the ice with grace and politeness. "Avoid joining a conversation where only two people are talking -- they may behaving a private conversation. Instead look for people who are standing alone or in groups of three or more."
- Listen. "Lawyers are trained to be good speakers, but to break the ice, a person must truly listen actively. Spend more time closing your mouth and opening the door to breaking the ice, by listening actively. People deeply desire to be heard."
- Smile. "Most of us are watching others for non-verbal cues, but we should focus on the nonverbal cues we are giving. The more you smile at people, the more you will open the door to conversation. A smile shows warmth."
- Introduce others. "It's a gift to the other person and it makes you look like a real connector, and the ice thaws quickly."
- Say something positive about your new connection. "Doing this at the outset of the conversation will break down a lot of barriers."
- Break the ice with someone you haven't spoken with for a very long time. "Simply say, 'it's been such a long time and I've been thinking of reconnecting with you. Tell me what's new with you?' People will resonate with this approach, because they too will have people they haven't spoken to in a long time."
- Download her free eBook, "55 Great Icebreaker Questions" and you'll never be anxious again in a room full of people you haven't met.