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How to speak to people

In this step learners get guidance on how to prepare for face-to-face communication in situations such as networking events or interviews.

Meeting people through social channels or being introduced by a contact via email is a great way to begin networking.

However, there are many advantages to meeting people in person, and having face-to-face connection where people can help to motivate and inspire you.


Face-to-face communication ensures that your audience understands the information or idea you want to convey, particularly because you have the opportunity to immediately clarify any misunderstandings. It is also more subtle and personal, which enables you to develop a more intimate connection with another person. This is especially true for when building your network and developing those relationships.

The key thoughts to keep in mind when communicating face-to-face are as follows:

  • Make sure you have a strong and consistent message.
  • Be honest and authentic.
  • Use effective body language.
  • Use simple and expressive language.

Two important situations where you will need to have effective and strong face-to-face communication are during networking events and interviews.

Engaging at network events and interviews

Face-to-face networking is one of the most beneficial activities you can participate in during your career. There are many ways in which you can help prepare yourself before and during a networking event, but the best thing you can do to improve is practise.

Go to as many networking events as you can. Engage with people, practise your value proposition statement, and get to know what works best for you. This applies for interviews as well. By practising presenting yourself and engaging with people, you will engage with an interviewer more effectively.

The following five pointers will help you during networking events and interviews:

1. Have a goal

Before any event or interview you attend you need to ask yourself, “Why am I going?”. What is your purpose for being there and what do you want the outcome to be? Do you want to leave with two new contacts, or do you want to leave with a new job role? Set yourself targets ahead of time and this will help you to remain focused and driven throughout.

2. Think of helping others

A networking event is a great opportunity for you to make contacts, and an interview will help you present yourself to a company. However, you should approach both of these situations with an attitude of how you can help others. It’s a natural human attribute to want to help others. If you convey this to people or a company when you meet with them, they will naturally feel inclined to help you in return, either at this time or in the future.

3. Introduce yourself

Introduce yourself with a firm handshake, by maintaining eye contact and stating your full name. Ensure that you listen to the other person’s name and use it when speaking with them; that way they know you have been listening. Where possible, at networking events try to introduce two of your contacts to each other. They will remember this gesture and will keep you in mind for introductions as well.

4. Focus on others

A lot of people dislike networking and interviews because they have a more introverted personality. That’s OK. People love to speak about themselves, where they’re going and what they’re currently working on.

Listening before speaking is a great tactic for anyone attending an event, whether shy or not. It ensures the person you are talking with is focused and concentrating. Keep the focus on them by asking questions and showing interest, and in return they will remember you as a good listener and captive audience.

5. Get to the point

Have 2-3 sentences in mind to sum up why you’re there and what you’re looking for . That way you are already prepared to speak with others. People lose interest very easily, so you need to make sure you get to the point quickly when speaking with them.

You can read further tips for networking events in the See Also section, or you can explore the Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work course.

Have your say:

Think about your answers to the following questions:
  • What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of networking events or in interviews?
  • Do you have pointers of your own for people who might be nervous when speaking face-to-face? What works best for you?
  • Do you find it easier to communicate face-to-face at events or at an interview? Why?
Share and discuss your responses with other learners in the Comments section.
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