You’ve decided to join a networking group because you want to expand your professional circle and open yourself up to potential increased business or employment opportunities.

It may then seem like a no-brainer to make your entrance at an event by approaching someone new and introducing yourself by proclaiming what you do, and essentially continuing with what is essentially a “sales pitch.” It’s called giving an elevator speech, and you should avoid it like the plague.

Why? You’ll find people are far more likely to listen to you when you show a sincere interest in holding a shared conversation – a balanced offering of professional and personal information, and asking the other individual questions hoping to learn the same. Bombarding someone you don’t know with your business card and a sales pitch is off-putting. Think of how you feel when a store employee follows you around when shopping, or the reputation “the proverbial car salesman” has for yourself.

Bridging the Personal/Professional Gap

If you’re afraid sharing or asking personal information is inappropriate, don’t be. Sure, there are some topics you won’t want to get into, but there are plenty fun personal things to bring up that are great ice-breakers. Consider discussing pets, kids and their activities, hobbies, sports, vacation plans, volunteer efforts and the like. Many people can relate to one or more of these topics and are happy to talk about them. Just be sure not to cross the line and turn your conversation to gossip.

In doing this, you are more likely to relate to each other, find common ground, and even form a friendship. The likelihood of you remembering those people you had meaningful – even fun – conversations greatly increases and you should go into the next event more confident and feeling like you are in the presence of friends.

How to Leave

Just as important as introducing yourself, you’ll want to exit a conversation gracefully, too. Always acknowledge it was nice meeting or seeing someone and express that you look forward to seeing them at future events.

Looking to join a networking event? Give Pagoda Business Network a try! We aim to provide cures to the common business networking event! Visit www.pagodabusinessassociation.com.

Nikki Murry is editor of Berks County Living magazine and a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and blogger. In her free time she is an active dog rescue volunteer and enjoys spending time with her 13-year-old son, Riley, and her three dogs: Buddha and Shelly, French Bulldogs, and Bruno, a Boston Terrier.