May 11th, 2012
In the past, a few of my clients have found striking up a conversation more difficult than keeping a conversation going. I’ll often hear them say: ‘…I’m alright once I get talking!’ Perhaps this sounds familiar? Whilst visiting Sydney recently, I decided to address this by developing a template that’ll allow you to quickly and easily create a charming first impression with people, by using your powers of observation.
It’s straightforward and best of all, you can use this universal conversation starter in pretty much any setting or environment.
(NB. Simply walking up to people and introducing yourself can be a great approach too, but usually lacks any flair or sparkle. This approach is aims to create some magic with your conversation starter).
Part One: Smile And Get Their Attention
You need a genuine reason to talk to people, otherwise your conversation will probably come across forced and awkward. Consequently, the first part of the icebreaker gives you a great purpose for striking up a conversation by voicing your approval at another person’s current situation.
Here’s the phrase:
- “That’s what I like to see..!”
This line should simultaneously grab the other person’s attention and build their curiosity to what you are going to say next. Make sure you deliver it with a smile because this is the first thing people will notice as they turn to look at you.
Feel free to use these variations instead: “Well, that’s made my day…” & “Now, there’s a reason to brag…”
Part Two: List off 2-3 Positive Observations
So, you’ve grabbed their attention and built a sense of curiosity in a matter of seconds. Now you need to list off 2-3 positive observations about what they’re actually doing.
Make a point of including anything you notice about the environment they’re in too. For example, imagine several people are sitting outside a bar one evening; your observations, combined with your icebreaker from before, might be sound like this:
- “That’s what I like to see… Happy people sitting around, relaxing with drinks at sunset!”
- “That’s what I like to see… Knee deep conversation, drinks topped up and the night is still young!”
- “Now there’s a reason to brag… Outside with your friends, great weather and no need to be anywhere else!”
You can enhance your skill at listing observations by people watching, which will give you a feel for the buzz and rhythm of the community around you. This will also speed up your ability to make observations. Head to a public spot in your lunch breaks and get used to noticing what people are doing. Pay attention to how they move and the clothes they are wearing. Try and guess their story just from mere observation. All of this effort will help you shoot observations from the hip in rapid succession.
Part Three: Cap Off The Comment
You can then cap off your perfect opening line with the handy rhetorical question: “What more could you want?” This will turn your observations into a cheerful social compliment, which will then put you in a position to expand the conversation further if you want to. Happily, the rhetorical question is useful because people will often answer it for you, which continues the banter. Other variations of the ‘cap off’ line are: “Could you be anymore happy!” and “Does it get any better?” I’m sure you can come up with some great alternatives too.
When you put these three components together you should have a line that looks like this:
- “That’s what I like to see… Happy people sitting around, relaxing with drinks at sunset! What more could you want?”
- “Now there’s a reason to brag…Outside with your friends, great weather and no need to be anywhere else! Could you be anymore happy!”
If you decide not to continue talking, your opening line will simply serves as a cheerful remark and you can continue on your way knowing you added to somebody else’s day.
Sometimes icebreakers don’t effortlessly segue into full blown conversation. When this happens you can have another stab at carrying the conversation further by asking an open ended question. A good one is: ‘So what’s the occasion?’ People are usually out and about for a reason. Their answer will give you a chance for further commentary, which will improve your success at having great conversation skills.
You’ll notice I messed up the order in the video and it still worked well because I was smiling: have fun! And improve on the world’s best conversation starter by inventing your own ones!