Maybe you're interested in making a new professional contact, or perhaps you simply want to make a good impression on a friend of a friend.
Whatever the reason, busting out the clichés upon the first introduction is never a good idea. To mix the conversation up a bit, try using one of these 15 icebreakers. They should help ease you into an engaging conversation with people you've never met before.
This one may seem simple, but a smile, a name, and a confident handshake can sometimes go a long way, Ariella Coombs wrote for Careerealism.com. "Sometimes the easiest way to meet someone is to offer a handshake and say 'hi,'" she wrote.
Humour is a good method to put another attendee at ease and jump-start a lighthearted conversation.
As Tim Ferriss, author of "The 4-Hour Workweek," previously told Business Insider, his policy is: If two people are conversing at a networking event, then it's rude to interrupt them — but if it's a group of three or more, then you can politely ask to join the conversation using this approach.
Once you've been granted permission to listen in, standby until someone says something you don't understand. At that point, Ferris says you should ask: "Could you clarify that for me?"
Someone will hopefully ask who you are, giving you a window to make your introduction, he explains.
The response is likely to have interesting details for you to follow up and ask more about, and it's a low-pressure way to begin a conversation.
Rather than silently stand in line for snacks, take the opportunity to start a conversation about the topic on everyone's mind: food. Ask about the dish they think looks good, or the mystery dish, Coombs wrote.
"Who knows, you might leave the buffet with a better plate of food AND a new contact."
Even if you don't really think you know this person, you can walk up to anyone and ask if they are friends with someone else who is at the event, wrote Jessica Gordon of The Daily Muse. If they say no, feign a mild surprised reaction and conversation will commence.
The holidays are a popular time for people to travel, and talking about plans is almost guaranteed to get the conversation going because most people have some idea of where they'd like to go, even if it's in the distant future, and love to talk about it.
And if the details haven't been hashed out yet, it's easy for your conversation partner to say "No, but I'd love to go to ..."
Asking a location-based question will help you jump-start an engaging conversation with ease because "it doesn't feel like you are asking for a stiff elevator speech", Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, told US News and World Report.
The conversation will allow both parties to talk about themselves, which is the ultimate goal when starting a conversation.
If it's the hottest new show on Netflix, odds are people have heard of it, and they may even be able to talk in detail with you about if they're also avid fans.
If they haven't watched yet, you could follow up by asking what shows they've been into lately. You'll probably stumble upon something you have in common at some point.
If you genuinely like something someone is wearing, compliment them, Michelle Tillis Lederman, CEO of the professional-development firm Executive Essentials, told US News and World Report.
Not only will they be flattered, but you can also ask a follow-up question about where they got the item, which could lead to a fun conversation. One caveat: Don't fake it, Lederman said.
If there's a group you want to approach, this is one way to break into the conversation. "It also opens up the conversation to everyone in the group, instead of limiting it to the people sitting right next to you," wrote Zantal-Wiener in HubSpot News.
"And the more people chatting, the better — it's another opportunity for you to learn about everyone's goals and exchange ideas."
Almost everyone watches at least one show that they're at least a little embarrassed about, ZinePak cofounder Brittany Hodak told Inc., and she said that sharing those guilty pleasures with a stranger is fun.
"It's funny how quickly you can bond with someone who admits to sharing your secret obsession," Hodak said.
If you still really want to find out what the person you're talking to does for a living, you could try spinning the question by asking what your conversation partner loves about their job or what's the most memorable thing that happened at their job.
This also has the added benefit of keeping the conversation positive, which will leave people with a more positive impression of you.
If all else fails, try something totally random that just might work, wrote the editors at The Daily Muse, like inserting yourself into an engaging conversation by commenting on how fun their group looks from the outside.
Zantal-Wiener recommended using this icebreaker if you're waiting in a long line.
"As the least patient person on the planet, I can attest to the effectiveness of using that time to do something other than focusing on how slowly the line is moving," Zantal-Wiener wrote. "Put that energy toward something productive, like meeting the people around you."
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