How to start conversations with strangers at events

Do you remember your first day of school when you were surrounded by new faces and how overwhelming that felt? Eventually, you made friends and felt more comfortable. Now let’s fast forward to today — you’re a successful financial advisor who’s involved in the community and attending social events. It could be a wedding, an art gallery opening night or a fundraiser. For a moment, when you walk into the room filled with faces you don’t know, does it feel like the first day again at a new school?

Try these three strategies to move past the networking jitters and start a conversation with people you don’t yet know:

  • The introduction. You scan the room and spot someone you know. You talk with them and then ask them to introduce you to people they know. Problem solved.
  • The friend in common. You didn’t see the person you hoped could provide an introduction. No problem. You walk up to a stranger and say, “Hello, my name is (name). You don’t know me, but I think we have a friend in common.” You stop talking. They ask who that person might be. You mention the name of your friend who isn’t there. They ask how you know them. You explain. You ask them the same question. They smile. The conversation has started.
  • The compliment. If the first two ideas don’t work and you can’t think of anyone you know who might have crossed their path, you can try the compliment. Observe the person you’re talking to. They might be wearing a distinctive watch, broach or cuff links. Maybe they have a lapel pin, often a symbol of a club or society. You admire it, giving them a compliment. You ask about it. They provide details.

This gets the conversation started with someone you have seen across the room and wanted to meet. What about those situations when you bump into someone in the buffet line, are standing admiring a painting or waiting at the car valet station? Here are a few ideas:

  • Art shows. What was your favorite painting in the show?
  • Events featuring food. Have you tried the food yet? Is there anything you think I should really try?
  • Long lines. So, what is your connection to the event? What else are you involved in?

When you meet people for the first time, ideally you want them to do the talking. My father once explained, “Every time someone opens their mouth, they are giving you information.” He also said, “The person talking is the one having a good time.”

Remember to draw the other person out. Learn about their interests, and try identifying interests you have in common. That lays the groundwork for exchanging contact information and keeping in touch. It can be easier to meet strangers than you might imagine!

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.

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  • bryce m sanders says:

    You are welcome, Roohi. Many people are hesitant to walk up to a stranger. We worry they will ask “what do you want” or “why are you talking with me”? It’s a lot easier than it looks because everyone seems to know there is a set of unwritten, acceptable rules for getting to know someone new.

  • Roohi Menon says:

    Thanks for simple, insightful sharing.

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