LORRAINE HOWELL

Media Skills Training

Talking to Strangers - It's a Good Thing

Meeting new people can be challenging for some, but it’s an essential part of building business relationships. If it were easy, speed dating and networking businesses would not have cropped up in droves a few years ago. Events with bells and a “musical chairs” structure might have helped some shy or hesitant networkers. And maybe made a few singles less lonely!

You can learn to talk to strangers in just about any situation – and overcome your fears. One of the best ways is to prepare an opening line or two, so you can relax and be in the moment instead of in your head. One reason why I help people prepare “elevator speeches” is because everyone needs a clear, concise, and memorable response to the questions “What do you do?

Here are a few basic ideas to help you prepare some opening lines or responses and feel less awkward:

  • Be ready to answer the “What do you do?” question and base it on your ideal customer or client. If it’s a business or networking situation be ready with a sentence or two that articulates your value or differentiator in the marketplace. If it’s purely social, prepare a response that stimulates further conversation. “Oh, I’m just an accountant” falls flat, but “I am a partner in an accounting firm, mostly serving technology companies” might spark a little more interest, and gives the questioner a little detail.

  • Prepare a unique opening line before you head to a meeting or event. “How many times have you attended (this event)?” At a wedding: “I went to school with (the happy couple); how do you know them?”

  • If you have identified a person you’d like to meet, try a personal touch. “I heard from (name your boss or associate) that you once worked in (name your department).” Then add a brief follow-up, maybe inquiring how the person liked the work, how it helped them in their new job, who they worked with at the time, or who still is with the company…

  • Of course, a few tried and true opening lines always work in personal and business situations: “Hi, my name is Lorraine.” Or, try a sincere compliment. “I really like your (something you notice and truly like).”

And if really stuck in an awkward situation or place where you don’t know anyone, walk up to someone else who is alone and simply admit that you don’t know anyone and could you please converse for a bit. Most people respond generously – and might be relieved! You never know whom that person may know and it could open a door to many new possibilities.

I plan to share many more tips and strategies here on crafting your elevator speech and refreshing other communication skills. If you are interested in receiving them click on the “Subscribe Now” button and give us your email address.


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