For some people, walking up to a person you’ve never met and making conversation is easy as pie. Many people even enjoy that. For others, being forced to walk up to a stranger and talk about some arbitrary topic sounds worse than walking on glass. But in order to network, you need to be able to schmooze and you need to be able to do it with strangers.
I consider myself to be a rather social person, but I still get shy when I have to meet someone new. I am very jealous of people who can just walk right up to a group, stick out their hands and laugh at a joke within five minutes. Some people have it and—well, some people need to work on it. Here is a list of eight icebreakers that will help you become more of a networking ninja… or at least a networking ninja’s apprentice.
1. Give the person a compliment.
Complimenting someone on a stunning necklace or pair of shoes is a great way to break the ice. For men this may be a bit trickier, but there’s no reason you couldn’t compliment a snazzy tie or jacket.
2. Comment on the food or ask them what they are drinking.
You know what people love? Food and drinks. If your target person to network with has a fun-looking drink, ask her what kind it is, or comment on how delicious (or bad) the food is.
3. Ask he or she who they work for.
Even if you know the answer, ask about it! And if you have connections to his company, be sure to mention them.
4. Comment on their name.
If she’s wearing a name tag, this is super easy. If her name is Kate, you can’t ask too many questions, but if she has a super interesting name you could ask a question like, “What’s the origin of your name?” or “That’s a great name, are you named after someone?”
5. Talk about the weather or the temperature of the room.
People talk about the weather a lot. Besides that, complaining about the uncomfortable room temperture is a real bonding experience. Unite against a common enemy! Think how much of your work day is devoted to this subject and haggling over who should be the one to adjust the thermostat.
6. Bring up a big news event, especially if it has to do with their line of work.
This works in two ways: It shows that you are up-to-date on current events, and it gets the conversation going. A win-win in two ways, too.
7. Talk about how long the bathroom line is.
If you end up waiting in the bathroom line for some part of the party, you may as well make the most of it. Two people are more willing to talk when they’re both being plagued by one of the utmost universal annoyances: Waiting in line for the bathroom.
8. Be honest.
A really good way to break the ice is to just talk about the fact that you are awkward and the situation is a little funny. Who doesn’t love refreshing honesty?
What’s your best, foolproof networking icebreaker? Tell us in the comments!