1. Start with a handshake
A proper handshake conveys trust, respect, and equality. Make eye contact, smile, and shake from the elbow.
2. First, look for singletons
People standing by themselves are the best option to approach. Two people standing shoulder-to-shoulder and groups of people that are closed off in a tight circle are likely not open to newcomers.
3. Practice on Your Server
If what you’re most nervous about is being ignored, test the waters by chatting up a waiter, waitress, barista, or bartendert.
4. Offer your name, and repeat theirs
Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Start a conversation like “Hi, my name is Jane. What’s yours?” When the person responds, repeat their name back: “Nice to meet you, John.”
5. Acknowledge your acquaintances
If you’ve met someone before reintroduce yourself and say where the two of you met. No matter whether they remember you or not, they’ll be flattered you remembered them.
6. Consider what you have in common
After the name game, launch into something you and the person you’re talking to can bond over.
7. Watch your body language
To look most at ease, lace your fingers together in front of you. Lean in to show interest.
8. Don’t fire off too many questions
Give your new acquaintance enough information about yourself that they can comfortably ask their own questions.
9. Draw on their passions
Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions like,” Why?” or, “How’d you get started with that?” to encourage them to keep speaking if you’ve hit on a subject the person seems passionate about.
10. Throw out a hypothetical question
If you’re in a group setting, such as a wedding table or circle of co-workers, ask a quirky hypothetical question for everyone to discuss.
11. Get out gracefully
When you notice a conversation starting to slow down, end it on a high note. At a natural pause in the conversation and smile. And, of course, repeat the person’s name: “I’m so glad to have heard about your trip. It was great talking to you, John!”