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Starting networking conversations

How can I engage others in conversation at a networking event? 
Once you've kicked off the conversation with, "Hi, my name is ...," it's okay to ask who the person is, what he or she does, and why they've come to the event. In some settings, it might be appropriate to mention a book you've read and share a bit of what you've learned. Movies are also generally safe territory and quickly give you a good idea of what kind of person you're talking to. (When in doubt, talk about the food.)

If there's a presentation, that's a great time to boost your visibility. During the question-and-answer period after a presentation, stand up, introduce yourself and ask a question that reveals your area of interest (don't testify; make your comment as a short question). People with similar interests or concerns will approach you afterward and introduce themselves - and you never know where those encounters might lead. 
Brain Trust contributor: Author of Marketing Creative Services On-line, Self-Promotion On-line and her newest, Stop Pushing Me Around
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