Break the Ice and Create More Sales Opportunities
Do you ever feel awkward at networking parties? Me too. Making small talk can often feel forced and synthetic, but making connections is important to help you move up professionally either by opening doors to new career opportunities or by create sales opportunities.
“Small talk is an opener,” says Dr. Robin Bernstein, associate professor at Harvard University. “It invites people to engage with you and gives them a huge number of nonverbal and tonal signals about us. It cues people in to the rhythms of our conversation and our general mood. Small talk helps answer questions like, ‘Is this person friendly?’ and ‘Is this person open to a conversation?’”
One tactic I’ve found to be helpful is to keep an arsenal of conversation starters. This might sound high school or college freshman-ish, but it does help. Here are some conversation starters you can use to help break the ice:
1) Where do we put our coats/bags?
Let’s be honest. No one knows what to do when they arrive. This question helps you connect with the people who rejoice in the chance to be the one “in the know.”
2) That looks great! What is it?
Point out an appetizer or drink and inquire about it. This question allows for a few different types of answers such as literally what it is, what it tastes like, or where they got it.
3) Are you from Miami?
Or Los Angeles. Or Chicago. Or Columbus. This question works especially well if you’re in a setting in which the person is wearing apparel with a team logo on it.
4) Did you hear so-and-so speak?
If you find yourself at a conference, it’s likely there will be speakers. This question is a great starting point that end up in many different directions.
5) Since we’ve got time to kill, I just wanted to introduce myself.
Waiting in line for the bathroom or buffet? Chat with the people around you by starting with this question.
6) Is this your first time here?
I used this question all of the time when I worked as a journalist covering the Chicago Auto Show. Media members who had been to the show for several years were able to share insider tips, and I easily related to the newbies like myself.
7) I’ve got a great sales joke for you.
This works great if you actually have an awesome joke. Make sure it’s good by running it by your coworkers and friends first.
8) I’m tired of talking to my colleagues. What are you talking about?
Quite frankly, it’s probably true. But it also shows an interest in getting to know new people.
9) Is anyone sitting here?
Unless someone actually IS sitting (or standing) there, it’s not likely they’ll pull a Gretchen Weiners and scream you can’t sit with them.
10) Hi, I’m Brittany.
Well, put in your own name, of course. Be sure to have a follow-up question just in case the other person doesn’t bite. Remember the basics: “Where are you from?”, “Where do you work?”, “Where do you work?”, etc.