Yesterday I had the good fortune of conducting a 1/2 day networking seminar to a lively and engaging group of professionals. They posed several excellent questions which were quite stimulating, especially regarding how to approach and join a group conversation already in progress. Since I know many of us have found ourselves in this situation I thought it would make for a helpful blog post.

Here are my recommended steps:
1. Give yourself credit for considering and taking on what many people consider a conversational challenge.
2. Observe the body language of members of the group.
–If they’re in close proximity to one another they may know one another well. Note the position of their feet meaning if they’re pointing toward the person with whom they’re speaking, it may be a more serious conversation vs. if one of their feet is pointed outward this may signal being more receptive or welcoming to newcomers.
3. Pay attention to the vocal volume of the group.
–If the general volume level is lower, it may signal a more intimate or private conversation as compared to a louder volume which could mean lighter or less personal conversation.
4. Check to see if you already know any of the members of the group; if you do, you may want to use that for leverage by greeting the person you know and asking for an introduction to the group.
5. If you’re a stranger to the group but wish to join them, consider approaching them while keeping a respectful distance. See if you can easily hear the theme of the conversation. If after listening you believe you can add value, briefly introduce yourself and ask if you may join the group.
6. Once you’ve joined the group, continue to listen to the conversational flow to see if you wish to participate and also continue observing body language to ensure it’s welcoming. If you’re not feeling this is a good fit, politely excuse yourself and exit the group.
7. Always avoid dominating a conversation you’ve just joined which is often viewed as intrusive.

Group chat has its own unique dynamics and can either be a closed or open circle. If this is a challenge you’re seeking, follow these recommendations and see how they work for you.