Soooo I recently realized that for non-native English speakers, it is also very difficult to go for international fairs or industry conferences and N E T W O R K with other people from different countries.

Networking is the worst part. The most uncomfortable.

Talking to strangers. Starting a conversation with them.

Actually having a conversation with them, and not just saying ‘yes’, ‘right’, ‘yes’

Understanding what they do

Telling them successfully what we do

Sounding smart. And interesting (and not like a fumbling lost novice)

And this becomes a trouble when you’re not a fluent English speaker. Because in most international conferences? People speak in English.


Awkward Situation 1: How to start a conversation with someone. For most of us it is tremendously difficult to walk up to a stranger and start talking. What the hell to say? How the hell to start talking?

Solution: Just walk to them with half a smile and say,

‘Hi. May I join you for a while?’

Awkward Situation 2: And it is also difficult to stand alone in a party where everyone is talking to someone. Don’t you just feel like an idiot standing alone there? Should you smile? Should you not smile? Should you look at someone? Should you not look at someone?

And the worst part is, most of the times you always, always see people talking to someone. No one seems to be free except you! How terrible.

When you see groups of chatting people around you and you are alone. You don’t want to disrupt someone’s conversation but you also don’t want to stand alone.

Solution: Locate a group, walk up to them with half a smile and say,

‘Hi. May I join you guys for a while?’

Awkward Situation 3: When you start talking to someone and it seems they are not the target person you want to meet with (because they might from an industry or function you don’t care about). How the hell to stop wasting your time with that person? Because remember, every single minute you’re taking to the wrong person, you’re losing the precious time to talk to the right person

Solution: After finding out what they do and deciding they are not the person you want to talk to, politely say after 5 minutes,

‘It was nice talking to you. I’m sorry but I must also talk to/meet other people here. See ya then.’

Awkward Situation 4: Someone comes to you and is not leaving you. He goes on talking about things you’re absolutely not interested in

Solution: The moment he finishes his story, say,

‘It was nice talking to you. I’m sorry but I must also talk to/meet other people here. See ya then.’

Awkward Situation 5: If someone asks you a question you think is too personal, or offensive, or you just don’t want to answer – like

How much salary are you making currently?

I know about your boss from many industry people. I heard he’s not very good. Is that true?

I heard your company is making losses. Is that true?

Solution: Give a smile or a half laugh. And say

‘We can discuss the specifics when we have a more solid proposal to discuss’

‘Everyone has their perspective, don’t they. We can’t be discussing perspectives on other people.’

‘Not when I checked last.’

And a general answer to any awkward question can be, ‘Let’s discuss that some other time.’ [We all know that ‘some other time’ will never come.] 

Any other awkward situation you don’t know how to solve?