People talk about breaking the ice, as if it’s easy. As if walking up to a group of strangers and starting a meaningful conversation, the equivalent to wielding a social swing saw, is no biggie. Have they met an introvert? Or tried to hold a conversation with a guilt ridden, working parent that is missing their child’s school event because to be there?
Who are these social ice-hacks, breezing across networking events as easily as a lumberjack strides through the forest? And how can those of us who aren’t like them, fake it enough to make it…through the whole conference.
Most people aren’t equipped to cut through the awkwardness of a social gathering just to make a new contact or two. Others have no choice. Skipping the gathering is not an option, especially with event tracking devices communicating every break out session attendance or bar visit.
We get it. Which is why we have come up with a hot list of ice breaking opening lines to use on just about anyone as conversation joiners or starters:
- False Confusion (Umm… Warning: This is really ridiculous, but it works like a charm every time.) Walk right up to the first person you see and just start talking as if you were just at dinner with them the night before. Then take a strong look at them, raise your eyebrows in surprise, double take them and say “Oh my god. You’re not Chris…” Laugh and look shocked and say “I am not joking, you have a twin. Whoa, this is weird. Hi I am ….” And take it from there. (Side note if the person you try this on laughs and says, “Wow, I read that same article, please let us know by DM:ing us at @ax3studios)
- Misery loves company. If you want to join a conversation, it’s best to not start off by talking about how perfect your life is and how great you are. (And if that was common knowledge, I wouldn’t have to write about it – you know who you are…) So instead of masking your insecurity by praising yourself, mosey on over to a group of people and share a common problem, such as “Hey, is anyone else having trouble with the wifi?” If they are, then tah-dah you instantly joined a tribe of like minded attendees. If they are not, you will soon discover how nice people are and how eager they can be to help.
- Our friends at HubSpot.com recommend this icebreaker: Approach someone and ask what time they are speaking. If they are not a breakout or keynote speaker they will be flattered that they look like they could be and if they are, jackpot. You get some insider scope and facetime with someone somewhat notable.
- And finally, yes, the best for last. Ask someone if they want to hear a marketing joke, and when they say yes reply “Me too. Is there a comedian in the house?” No, I kid. Don’t do that. Please, don’t. But you could tell them a joke. Our buddy Corey Wainwright made a list of them here. (https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33983/10-Cheesy-Marketing-Jokes-to-Tickle-Your-Funny-Bone.aspx#sm.0000yy7x9i15cefgnpnssajlqvotz)
There is a reason why some of these tips are painfully awkward, and it’s because networking with strangers is awkward, unless you decide it isn’t. It’s either funny and harmless and temporary so you might as well make it fun, or it is torture. Whatever you decide it is, is what it will be. And by all means if someone approaches you with some off the wall, forced, awkward icebreaker, think about how you would want someone to receive you and respond to them with the same kindness. Buy them a drink for the bravery or ask them if they want to hear a marketing joke.