I recently found myself in a room full of strangers, making small talk for a few hours. We were all starting various courses in January and the academy thought it would be a good idea to supply a few drinks and let us mingle.
I love these events. Everyone is interested in meeting each other, and it gives you a great opportunity to practice your social skills. You also get to learn a lot of interesting tidbits about people.
When you are in a situation similar to this, it’s important to have a one to four minute spiel rehearsed that covers your background, what attracted you to your course, and your previous education. Absolutely everyone will ask you these three questions. New people will be popping in and out of conversation, stopping and restarting them, so it’s important to know how to gracefully enter and exit the conversation. If you feel the conversation becoming stale, circulate the room to meet others.
It is key to keep the flow of conversation going. If you enter a group that looks like they have been talking for awhile, it is best to avoid the obvious three question right away. Instead, start with a brief introduction and ask what they were talking about.
Although these events are informal, business cards can be very handy to stay in contact with interesting people that you meet. After a full night, it can be difficult to track down someone on LinkedIn from memory alone.