Professional networking requires somewhat of a balance between putting forth the best, most professional, version of yourself while also remaining true to who you are and genuine in your interactions. Three key ingredients of a professional networking exchange that proves itself to be productive, as well as authentic, include: an organized introduction, keen observational skills and the use of open-ended questions - the three O’s, if you will. Organize your introduction ahead of time. While preparing an all-out script doesn’t scream authenticity, you might want to take the time to jot down key things about yourself and the work you do. If you have a solid grasp of the major points you want to hit, you will likely be more engaged in the discussion. Whereas, if you’re focused on figuring out what to say next or digging deep for interesting information about yourself, you’ll miss out on opportunities for genuine social connection. A brief elevator pitch serves as a great point of introduction, allowing you to lay everything out there and let the conversation take on a more natural flow going forward. Observe, observe and observe some more. Amid the chaos and excitement of a conference, you might be less inclined to focus on the intricate details of your surroundings. However, the ability to narrow in on certain features of the venue, session and the people you are talking to will be incredibly helpful when networking. Are you able to help other attendees locate the nearest washroom? Or even a nearby ATM? Taking note of seemingly trivial details as you come across them might enable you to offer some assistance to fellow attendees and introduce yourself while you’re at it. On a more personal note, use visual clues about your neighbour- such as if they are attending solo or even donning their institution’s logo somewhere- to strike up conversation and ask individually relevant questions. Open-ended questions help the conversation flow. We’ve all experienced the awkwardness of having a seemingly thoughtful question be met with a single-word reply, prompting and internal scramble for some sort of follow-up. Evidently, preparation is just as necessary in the formulation of meaningful questions as it is for a solid introduction. One surefire way to avoid the dreaded conversational dead-end is by steering clear of questions that are easily satisfied by a one-word response, such as “yes” or “no”. People are typically generous with their responses at networking events, but making questions as open-ended as possible will provoke genuine engagement on both ends.