Tell your stories

Say you’re attending a networking event. Or a conference dinner. Or a social hour. If you’re brave enough to go – or afraid not to because hey, what if you miss meeting the one contact who will change your life? – what do you say to the first person you approach? How do you juggle your appetizer plate and your drink and still manage to shake hands?

Practice. Just like learning and improving any skill. Practice, practice, practice.

As career blogger Penelope Trunk says, “You have to practice making conversation if you want to be good … Of course, in order to practice this you have to open yourself up for some awkward situations. But there is no way to grow without being awkward at first, so try it. It feels good to be able to find the interesting thing about anyone you talk with … After lots of practice I have a deep belief that everyone has something to offer if I can just get the guts to start the conversation.”

Starting these conversations means practicing your ability to listen, ask good questions and refine your storytelling. You have good stories. Before you go off to mingle in a roomful of strangers, think about the event you’re attending and what you may have in common with many of the people there. Then think about your stories. Look at your own experiences and find those stories that can create connections around those common interests, whether they’re based on your work, travel, sports interests, books, technology or hobbies. Practice telling those stories, not just to yourself but to your friends and family members.

With practice, you’ll learn which stories best define you. And talking about those experiences will create stronger connections with those strangers in the room.

So just go. Everyone’s nervous. You’ll fit right in. And eat first because if you try to juggle the appetizer plate and the drink and the handshakes, you’ll end up with barbeque sauce on your shirt.

**Sue is an HR service experience specialist who has a background in journalism, public relations and HR customer experience. Sue’s been with American Family for 14 years. She spends her spare time chasing her two young children and enjoying time with friends and family.

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