Networking in English | Easy, Effective Conversation Strategies

Dec 1, 2021 | Business Professional English, English Conversation, How To Develop Skills

This lesson was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated with new content as of December 2021.

Networking in English is particularly challenging if you’re naturally introverted or feel shy using English. 

But if you avoid networking, that means you’re also avoiding situations where you could meet new friends, build relationships, or create job opportunities.

The good news is, you don’t have to avoid these situations. And you don’t have to hate them either.

In this lesson you’ll learn how to:

  • Use your strengths as an introvert for effective networking in English
  • Make small mindset changes that will help you enjoy chatting with others in English
  • Prepare English questions and phrases you can use to get your started

6 Strategies for Easy Networking in English

Strategy 1: Prepare in advance

Do you ever feel you need way more time to get comfortable or think about what to say in a conversation? And you don’t understand how other people seem to do it so easily. 

Well, you’re right.

Research does indicate that introverts need more time to think or process information. We can be easily overwhelmed by noise, crowds, and other stimuli, which can lead to increased anxiety. In her book called, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, Dr. Marti Olsen Laney explains that an introvert’s brain actually works harder to process interactions, events, thoughts and feelings, there is literally a longer neural pathway for information to travel along.

So, if you’re an introvert, there’s definitely a reason why you may need (or prefer) more time to think in conversations and responding to questions.

And that’s why some preparation before the event can really help make it much easier.

For example, do some research. Before going to a networking event, dinner party, or conference, consider the kind of people you’ll meet and what kinds of questions might engage them. Then prepare some easy questions in advance. Get some of my favorite questions in my lesson on How to Master Small Talk in English.

Also, knowing that as an introvert a networking event can be difficult, plan to limit your time at events… when you know you only need to be at the event for a short time, it may be easier to stay focused and be positive. So, before you head into that next event, tell yourself your goal is to stay just one hour.

Strategy 2: Change your mindset

Rather than viewing networking and small talk as a necessary evil, consider it an opportunity to build meaningful relationships.

Here are some great mind shift statements:

  • Instead of: This is going to take forever. → I can be positive and engaging for 1 hour at this event.
  • Instead of: I hate small talk. → How can I use this as an opportunity to meet someone really interesting?
  • Instead of: I never know what to say. → What question will get others talking?

Strategy 3: Use your secret weapon as an introvert — ask questions

Introverts are often natural question askers. Use this to your advantage and let others do the talking if you’re not sure what to say.

But I have one important recommendation: Avoid asking questions that only have a yes or no answer, that will kill the conversation. For example, avoid questions such as:

  • Are you having a good time?
  • Do you like the food here?
  • Are you into football?

Instead, focus on questions that require detailed answers to make networking in English easier. We call these open questions and they start with question words such as what, why, where, who, when, and so on. 

For example:

  • What’s been your highlight of the year so far?
  • What are you working on at the moment?
  • What have you got coming up over the next couple of months?
  • What challenges do you think the industry is facing right now?
  • What exciting opportunities are on the horizon for your team?
  • How did you get into this line of work?
  • Where do you like to spend your vacations?

And here’s an extra benefit: when you ask great questions, you’re naturally more interesting.

Don’t believe me? Check out this lesson on How to Be Interesting in English.

Strategy 4: Find common areas of interest

As you ask your great questions, listen carefully. You’ll quickly identify topics you have in common. This can lead to more meaningful connection.

A great way to let someone know you are listening by reflecting back what they are saying to them. For example when Sarah from the accounting department says it has been really difficult following all the new laws and rules this year.

You could reply: So you’re saying it has taken a lot more time and effort to follow the new regulations? That sounds difficult. How is it going?

See, I finished with a question there to continue the conversation.

More examples:

  • Oh, you play golf? How often do you get out on the course?
  • I love cooking too. What is your favorite cuisine to make?
  • So you like eating out, what are some of your favorite restaurants?
  • So, you are into tennis? Who is your favorite player?
  • I follow basketball too, what did you think of the game last night?

Strategy 5: Make it easy to participate in the conversation

If you ask a question be ready to answer the same question yourself.

So if you are going to ask — What have you been working on lately? — be ready with your interesting answer. Think about this in advance, before the event, so you are well prepared.

Here’s why: most of the time people will answer your question and say, “What about you?”

Strategy 6: And finally — be genuine

It is okay to not be comfortable networking. And it’s absolutely fine to be honest about that. You may be surprised to discover other people who feel the same.

For example:

  • “I’m not great at breaking the ice, so let me just introduce myself. I’m Annemarie, I’m an online teacher and entrepreneur, how about you?”
  • “I’m not even going to pretend I have a fancy ice-breaker, I’m Jan Riccio, database manager, and you are?”

Now that you have several strategies to make networking in English easier by using your natural strengths as an introvert, it’s time to practice.

Choose one of these situations and tell us what you would say below:

  1. Your dream company has a booth at a trade show, you would love to find out about the possibility of working for them. Imagine the situation. What is your opening line?
  2. You are sitting next to someone from your industry at a conference, what do you say to start a conversation?
  3. You are at a networking event with a room full of potential customers for your business. How do you start the conversation?

The best place to share your answers, get feedback, and learn from others in the Confident English Community is in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

— Annemarie

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