You're stuck at a gathering where you know very few people; or you're hosting a social event where your guests bring their partners or friends and these are people you don't know! What do you do in such instances? Initiating a conversation with a stranger can be an intimidating and uncomfortable activity, unless, you follow some of these important suggestions and tips. Read on...
Begin with a greeting. Take the initiative and begin with a cheerful and polite greeting. Chances are that the other person is feeling equally awkward and isolated in a big gathering. Introduce yourself and offer a handshake (if it is an acceptable custom).
Continuing the conversation. Once you've got the greetings and introductions out of the way, you might find yourself stumped on what to do next. A few good conversation starters (including some clichés) are -
How do you know the host?
What do you do? (work or occupation related questions)
If the gathering is for a purpose, elaborate on said purpose and ask how the person is related or connected to the event.
Comment on any of the latest news or current affairs, or about an interesting bestseller or recent box-office hit
Talk about the weather (Cliché!!!!), or any feature of your surroundings which is interesting.
Ask any open-ended questions, but don't make them too personal or offensive.
Follow the conversation along the lines of the responses you receive from him/her.
Body language and expressions. When talking to someone, always ensure that you make steady eye-contact and have a pleasant expression on your face. Remember, a smile always helps, but not a weird and wide grin!
Be a good listener. When talking to new contacts, the basic idea is to have a two-way conversation. So stop monopolizing the conversation and listen to what the other person has to say. At the same time, make sure that you are attentive to what the other person is saying. Interjecting at the right times to offer your viewpoint will encourage the other person also to open up and you can have a lively and interesting conversation.
Use compliments. If you are making a conversation with the host or hostess, compliment them on the way they've managed the event, the decorations or the attention to detail lavished on the event. You can also use compliments judiciously, when talking to people other than the hosts. Never, ever, comment on a person's body or looks, it is okay to compliment impersonal items such as jewelry, shoes or other accessories, though.
Practice makes perfect, practice before an important event, if necessary, such as a business gathering where high-profile individuals or your company's senior management are likely to attend and you get the opportunity to talk to them. This holds true even for social events or parties. Above all, be relaxed and confident, the way you project yourself is very important.