At Rainbow Camp the girls worked in groups on their communication skills broken up into age groups. Some of us are natural at starting conversations with others. Some have a social courage that others do not. Many of us are a little more “in our own head” and find it tough to strike up a conversation, especially with someone you don’t know and if they are in a different age group or stage of life than you. “What will I have to talk about with them?” we think.
The older girls (late high school and college-aged), discussed breaking down a conversation logically, into 3 stages and preparing something for each stage. This can help those who are nervous, shy, or are more thinkers than talkers, to feel comfortable going into a room full of people you don’t know… maybe at a Masonic event, alumni event at school, orientation at college, or a work event. Just like with your memory work, or a math test, preparation can help increase confidence and calm nerves.
So, let’s break conversations with new people down into 3 stages and come up with ideas for each stage: small talk, details, and next steps/close.
First, small talk. This is just the very beginning… introducing yourself, and some very basic questions to start a foundation or the conversation to come. Some ideas are:
- Hi, I’m ____, how is your day going so far?
- Hi, I’m ____, how are you connected to this event/organization?
- Hi, I’m ____. I always get nervous going to things like this, but you seem like a great person to talk to!
- Hi, I’m ____. Have you tried those little meatballs? They’re fantastic!
- Hi, I’m ____. Have you been to one of these events before?
- So, what do you do?
- What do you enjoy about it?
- What do you do in your free time?
Of course after you ask a question, you’ll share that information about yourself. If you’re unsure, just use their response as your guide and share a similar amount of information.
The next stage is just getting more details about the person so you can learn a little about them and make a meaningful new connection. Some ideas are:
- What challenges do you face at your job (or ‘in your role’ if talking about a volunteer organization)?
- If you had to attribute success at your company/organization to just one skill or trait, what would it be?
- What is new in your organization (or company/industry) right now?
- What has surprised you the most in this career/role?
- What is the best lesson you’ve learned in your role so far?
- What has been the most valuable experience you’ve had so far?
- What have been your favorite projects/events?
If someone is talking about a career or organization you are interested in for yourself, ask them for more details:
- I’m very interested! What would you advise someone like me to start doing now to prepare for that?
- What type of projects do interns or jr. members/employees work on at your organization?
- What would you advise someone do in the first month to ensure the best start possible at your organization?
- What other resources should I look into next?
A lot of these ideas will lead to longer conversations and you’ll have other questions and comments to throw in as the other person is talking. You won’t just string all of these questions together, of course. Just memorize a few of them and have them ready when needed, then let the conversation carry on naturally.
Now, how do you close? First, you just invested precious time with this person, as they did you. Why make just a 1-time connection? You should discuss next steps, and then close the conversation. Here are some ideas:
- I’d love to keep in touch with you. Are you on social media? Do you mind if I send you a connection request?
- I’d love to reach out again if I have further questions about your organization. Would that be okay with you? Do you have a card? (If not, put their info in your phone. This is the only time you should take out your phone.)
- It has been so great talking to you! I promised myself I’d meet at least 5 new people here so I’m going to keep moving through the crowd. Thank you for your time!
- Thank you for your time! I don’t want to take up too much of it so I’m going to grab a sip of water and meet a few other new people. Have fun!
- I’m so glad I got the chance to meet you. I’m going to say hello to a friend I saw come in, but I hope we get the chance to chat again soon!
- Thanks for talking to me! I have to step out to send a quick message/make a quick call, but I look forward to connecting on facebook/instagram/etc.
- It was so nice to meet you. It is about time for me to head out/get to work on something. Will you be at the next event? I’d love to say hello!
You’ll use these when the conversation is naturally coming to a slow point, or when you feel you’ve gotten all you can out of this person. Don’t use any of these if they’re not true. If you don’t really have to leave, or don’t see a friend to say hi to, use something else. And remember: practice makes perfect!
I hope these ideas can help you start up a conversation with someone new, or help you feel confident chatting with someone from a different generation than you. Just memorize some of these and have them ready. And remember, we’re all just people navigating through this world together. So, let’s share it with each other. Go make a new connection today!