How to join a conversation without making anyone uncomfortable

Anchorman friends
Breaking into a conversation is hard. Anchorman / DreamWorks Pictures / Apatow Productions / Herzog-Cowen Entertainment

Walking up to a stranger at a networking event is hard.

Walking up to two or more strangers — already involved in a conversation — is harder.

But in her Ultimate Guide to Meeting People at Events, business and publicity strategist Selena Soo writes that joining group conversations is an important part of getting more out of live events.

Why are you there, if you aren’t going to talk to anyone?

Soo has a lot of experience starting the conversation. After discovering the world of online entrepreneurship while working for a nonprofit she knew wasn’t the right fit, she started looking for ways she could help the entrepreneurs and influencers she followed. She turned her talent for helping and connecting people into her very own business, which now brings in over $300,000 a year.

In her Ultimate Guide, she writes:

“You can jump into a group conversation by saying, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. How does that work?’

“While you don’t want to eavesdrop on personal conversations, you can join in visibly by laughing at a person’s joke, nodding your head, or commenting with something like: ‘That’s great advice,’ or ‘What a great story. And by the way, I don’t believe we’ve met yet. My name is [Name].'”

Speaking up is key. We’ve all been on both sides of this tricky transition: both a person involved in a conversation, watching someone inch closer without actually joining, and being that incher, worrying about what to say. The longer you hover on the outside of a conversation, the more awkward it gets for everyone.

Once you find an opening, Soo recommends the following two elevator pitch formats to introduce yourself in a clear and compelling way:

“I recommend one of two formats:

  • I help X-people achieve Y-goal.
  • I help X-people solve Y-problem.

“For example, I could say: ‘I help coaches, consultants, and service providers get more visibility and clients for their business.’ It’s very clear who I’m helping and the goal I’m helping them achieve. This paints a better picture than just saying, ‘I do marketing.'”

For more tips to get more out of any networking event, download the free Ultimate Guide to Meeting People at Events.

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