Just ask a question.
Seriously, that’s all it is. That is how you start a conversation with the stranger – you ask the stranger a question, something beyond the state of the weather.
Find a person in the room that looks interesting … and ask a question. If you can, make the question interesting or unexpected.
Questions I’ve asked that have opened doors:
- “What brings you here tonight?”
- “Where did you get your hat?”
- “What’s your favorite exhibit here?” (at an art gallery)
From there, ask a few more questions. If the person is interested in/entertained by you, he or she will naturally respond with questions. A person who does not have this natural response is probably not a good/healthy connection, or may be gently/subconsciously rejecting you. That’s OK. If I had 7 billion friends, my Facebook page would break.
Do not ever begin with “Hi, I’m ____ and here’s what you should know about me!” That’s a sales tactic. That’s an unwelcome proposition coming. That’s … icky.
I’m not much for working rooms, to be perfectly honest. I’m not particularly shy, I just like who I like and I believe strongly that a few strong, sincere relationships outweigh popularity by 1000.
If you need to exit, a close can be:
- “It was nice meeting you.”
- “I won’t keep you, thanks for the chat.” (people know when they’re being schmoozed, so no use lying about it for social sake)
- “I want to catch (my friend, x, the guy with the hat), but thank you!”
- “I need to get going.” (only use if you are actually leaving the event)
- “Here’s my card.” (If you want to invite the person to contact you later.)
In Minnesota, a person has to see you 3-4 times or more before following up with any type of personal connection. That’s just the way it is here. So if you want to make further contact, keep showing up at certain events. This may be hard to do. You will feel like you’re starting again a lot, but if you remember something about a person you run into, mention that you remember. It makes a difference, because it’s sincere.