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Need a networking ice-breaker?

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Question: “I am looking for a few good questions to ask strangers at any kind of function. I can carry on a decent conversation with anyone who comes up to me first, but I have a terrible time being the ‘ice-breaker.’” — Dana Morvak


Normally, I would approach someone, with hand extended and say Hi, I'm _____, I'm the Admin Mgr of XYZ Company. I'm here for ___________. I will always ask questions about them and the company they are representing. I normally will try before the function to find out what companies are attending so I can do a little research. If I am not able to find out and I ask the company question. I would then flow into quesions about type of business. I will also sometimes ask if they have a business card. If I am attending alone. I will ask if their section is full, if not would they mind if I joined them. You have to be yourself and remember not to be shy or intimidated by not knowing some. Every stranger is a perfect opportunity for both a personal and business friend.

After a quick introduction, always ask the person a question. People love to talk about themselves! There is usually one question that comes to mind when you first meet someone. "Do you like the hors d'œuvres?" "Wow, what a beautiful ring. How long have you been engaged/married?" etc. Keep it light and you'll have plenty to talk about.

Good Luck!

I do exactly as Betty says to do. I introduce myself and then ask them about themselves or their company. I was terrible when I was unfamiliar surroundings but found that when I did introduce myself and got the person to respond, I relaxed and found that many were like myself and afraid to break the ice as well.

I couldn't have said it any better than any of the above. I too was too shy to make the first step when in an unfamiliar business setting, but now I just go up to anyone I don't know with a smile, hand extended and introduce myself. Usually, the other person will reciprocate, but if not, just do as mentioned above and ask a light-hearted question, or ask where they are from or what company they represent.

The most important thing, is to make eye contact and give a smile and a firm handshake. I personally hate wimpy handshakes.

I agree with all of the above and have used these techniques myself, however, be prepared for those who will not "take the bait" so to speak. I recently attended a conference in Virginia and I did not know anyone. I approached someone standing by themselves introduced myself and she gave me a half smile and a "hey". Before I could say anything else to her, she turned her head and walked away. Her body language and the tone of her voice was extremely demeaning. I didn't let this stop me from introducing myself to others, although it was quite disturbing and not to mention rude. So be ready for those who do not want to "chit chat" and just move on.

Great approaches above. You can also make comments on the event: - great food, impressive speakers, etc. - to get the conversation going.

Relating to your question, "in any kind of setting" - I am thinking social business as well as a business function. I generally like to open it up by introducing myself and making a personal comment about myself relating to the function I'm at; just about any topic can get the conversation started as most people don't want to sit in awkward silence. Here's a few examples: "They really keep it cold in this room, I am used to ___". "Did you see what is on the menu for this dinner?" "Are you from this area?" "Just keep it simple and try to be chatty even if you're nervous."

BTW, if a stranger asked how long I've been engaged or married, that would be a big turn off for me.

Hope this helps along with the other good advice.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kathy Tsai September 2, 2011 at 12:35 am

The challenge I have is when I arrive at a function a bit late, most of people may already stand or sit as a group and chat. Will it be not appropriate to interrupt their conversation?


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