This post is a complete road map to starting conversations...if you struggle to start conversations (especially if you’re shy or introverted), by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll have a system to build your conversation starting muscle and if you practice the simple tips I share below, you’ll be a conversation starting guru in 30 days or less.
The Key word in the promise above is ‘Practice’. To get those results, you’ll need to commit to practicing what you read here today.
I know that’s a bold claim but I’ll tell you why I’m so confident...The tips I’m sharing today are the exact ones I used to start the most amazing relationships ever when I moved to a new city (twice). I also used these tips to build relationships with people that ended up being my customers, introverted entrepreneur that I am. It’s not just me, my clients have used the tips I’m sharing today and gone ahead to have some pretty amazing results.
reading this will have a high ROI if you struggle to start conversations or make friends. I’m also going to be giving a free gift at the end of this post.
What the big deal around meeting new people and networking?
Well...If you just moved to a new city and don’t know anyone, no matter how introverted you are, you’re going to get bored because connection is a human need, we’re made to crave it.
Secondly, meeting new people and connecting with them totally changed my life. I got access to so many awesome opportunities because of the new friendships that were created. I got a support group, business partners, and friends that help me grow. Most importantly, I’m presently building an information products + passive income business (Skills Tribe) around this hobby of mine.
In a nutshell, with networking, you’re able to get access to people and opportunities you otherwise would not have access to.
How to meet new people, make friends and build your network:
In doing research around networking (I’ve done over 200 consultations and interviews) I’ve found that 95% of people wait for others to walk up to them and say ‘hi’ and when people don’t walk up to them and start conversations with them, they wonder why.
They start to think there’s something they did wrong. ‘Is there something I said?’...Nah hun, you didn’t do anything wrong. What’s happening is, everyone’s waiting for everyone else to start the conversation.
Another huge issue that makes starting conversations really difficult is fear, or should I call it worry. When you start to think along these lines...
This person doesn’t know me that well, will I be bothering them?
This person is wayyy older or smarter or more important, what if I don’t have anything ‘important’ to say and end up looking silly?
Starting a conversation with a stranger can be very daunting because it’s not in our nature to start conversations, heck! I’m introverted. We keep running worst case scenarios through our mind.
I’ve got good news and bad news
If you really want to make friends, meet new people and build your network, the bad news is, you’re going to have to put yourself out there.
Hol up! Hol up! Don’t run away just yet...
What if there was a way to build up your confidence to start conversations, what if you didn’t have to go from 0 – 100% in a day, what if you could work on it gradually (at your own pace) and then wake up one day to realize that you not only like starting conversations but actually look forward to it?
If that sounds appealing, you, my friend are a lucky bugger because today is your lucky day. I’m sharing a step- by-step process to going from ‘I love to meet new people but I don’t know how to go about it because starting conversations stresses me out’ to ‘Starting conversations? Easy, Peasy’
I’m here to show you a comfortable, step-by-step ways to start conversations especially if you are introverted or shy.
1. Learn to say your name right
How many times have you run into someone you’ve met before but been embarrassed or extremely reluctant to approach them because you couldn’t remember their name?
Now, think about how many people have probably been reluctant to approach you because they couldn’t remember your name.
The first step to getting someone to remember your name is actually saying it right. Have you ever had to ask someone what their name is only to have them mumble something, then you go ‘Huh? Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that, what’s your name again?’...by the third time they mumble their name, you just pretended you got it even though you didn’t?
When you say your name, imagine you’re teaching a 5-year-old or someone from a completely different part of the world to say it.
Example : My name is (pause) Lo-Tan-Na.
On a side note, why do some people insist on saying ‘My names are?’...No! That’s not sexy.
2. BE APPROACHABLE
Would it be easy to approach someone who clearly has a frown on their face, or someone who looks like they are ready to beat up the next person that looks at them? Actually that’s a silly question because I’ve had someone pull over and ask me for directions on a rainy day when I was leaning against a car and crying, some people have no emotional intelligence but that’s a story for point #6.
The point is, if you want people to warm up to you, you’ve got to learn to warm up to them first and the first step to doing that is being approachable.
Did you know that before you say a word, you’re already communicating with those around you? It’s true, your body language speaks volumes.
How then can you look/be approachable?
- Smile. Smiling goes a long way. I cannot over stress the importance of smiling. I’m also not saying you should plaster a smile on your face constantly...that’s just scary.
When you meet someone, smile before you say ‘hello’.
- Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes you love. When you put effort into your outfit, it makes you more confident which will make reaching out to people easier.
- Being positive and enthusiastic goes a long way in making you more approachable. If you’re going out and plan to mingle but happen to be in a terrible mood...Honey, please stay home. You’re only going to dampen the mood of most people you come in contact with or attract people that are also in a bad mood.
If you absolutely have to go out, I recommend think of what makes you happy and do something you love doing. Listening to upbeat music is my go-to bad mood stabilizer. Listening to upbeat music always puts me in a good mood.
I find a way to get whatever is bugging me out of my system by venting to a friend or screaming out loud (I promise I’m not crazy) then I put on my BREEZER app and listen to upbeat music.
When you’re positive and enthusiastic, you’ll attract people who are positive and enthusiastic too.
Tip: Make a list of 10 activities that always lift your spirit and put you in a good mood. The next time you plan to go out, choose one item on your list and make time for it.
Freddie Harrel has some more awesome bad mood breaking + confidence boosting tips HERE
3. Talk to people who have to talk to you
Now that you’ve practiced saying your name right and you’ve learnt to be a proactive person by controlling your emotions/bad moods, what next?
The next thing you want to do is practice starting conversations with people who have to talk back to you. Next time you get into an UBER, talk to the driver. Ask them how long they’ve been driving and how they got into that line of work, ask them what extreme experiences they had with riders.
Same goes for Store owners, people exhibiting at an event, Front of house staff/receptionist, the clerk at your grocery store, the waiter that serves you food, the bellboy in your apartment building, the security guard at your office. These people are literally paid to talk to you or see you as a potential customer so they’ll talk to you.
Tip: Who are the people you come in contact with on a daily basis? start to have conversations with them that go further than hello.
4. Use names & Remember names
It’s also super important to call people by their names. It’s ironic but a lot of people that wear name tags don’t get called by their names. It’s sad but they get treated like furniture...something that just comes with the place.
You’ll be truly amazed at how they light up when you call them by their name, some will be so shocked that they’ll ask how you know their name. Others will thank you for being so sweet.
When you meet a random person and remember their name, it makes them feel very important and people always remember how you made them feel.
How do you remember names?
I know it can be difficult to remember names sometimes. If you repeat a name multiple times during a conversation, it tends to stick.
Oh wow, Anwuhli is such a beautiful name, what does Anwuhli mean? How do you spell Anwuhli?
If you meet two people at the same time and keep mixing up their names, practice association. Here’s what I mean, I met two brothers Tobi (older) and Tomi (younger) and kept mixing their names up. So, you know how letter B comes before Letter M??...I just had to remember that...B (Tobi) is older than M (Tomi). Get it?
Does this person have a striking feature? Amazing cheekbones, kinky hair, beautiful eyes. Create a link to their striking feature and name in your mind. This is another type of association.
Is there someone close to you that has their name? ‘Joy’ like my cousin. That’s another type of association. Basically link their name to something you’ll remember.
Asking people to spell their name also helps you remember. If it’s a common name, ask them to spell it anyway, just mention that some common names also have unique spellings (George - Jeorge, Deborah - D’borah, Khloe - Chloe)
Tip: The next time you meet someone that has a name tag, call them by their name.
5. Random Conversations/Questions
A great way to build up your conversation starting muscles is to start having random conversations/start asking random questions.
The next time you’re leaving a restaurant, ask someone for directions? The next time you’re at a workshop, ask the person sitting next to you if they have a pen or how long they’ve been there for or how they heard about the workshop.
The next time you’re on a queue, ask the person in front of you for the time or if they’ve been there before and if service is usually this slow/fast.
6. Emotional intelligence
With random conversations and networking in general, you want to be emotionally intelligent. Be observant, notice people. Is this person in a bad mood? Does this feel like a great time to talk to them?
Remember what I said above about someone asking me for directions when I was crying? Even now as I think of it, that was super insensitive. I don’t care if you were lost for hours, you don’t ask someone who’s wailing for directions. Besides, I was on a quiet street in the middle of town, if he just drove down in any direction, he would have seen people and he had to know this. I’m getting upset just writing about it.
I believe compliments are the biggest icebreakers ever.
‘I love you hair’, ‘I love your shoes’...simple statements like these go a long way, especially when you compliment someone on something they put a lot of effort into. Imagine if you take your time and pick out an amazing outfit, pair the accessories that go with it then step out looking like a million bucks and nobody...not one person tells you how great you look...bummer!
You’ve gotta make sure your compliments are genuine...it very rare to not like A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G on/about a person but in the rare instance that that happens, go with a random statement/question.
You may think...I’ll never be caught dead wearing what she’s wearing...but if she’s pulling it off let her know, say something like...’you’re really rocking/pulling off this outfit’...that’s not a lie.
The problem with lying when you compliment people is, they usually sense it...what you put out comes back which just leads to a negative reaction from the other person.
What you put out (Lies/negative energy) = What you get (doubt/‘is she being sarcastic’, ‘is he making fun of me’)
Tip: Start complimenting people today and see how they light up and warm up to you.
8. Look for people that are like you
Next time you go for an event or a festival or somewhere that has a lot of people, look out for people who are like you. Fight the temptation to stay in the corner and stare at your phone screen the entire time you’re out.
Observe people. There’ll always be someone else who looks out of place, there’ll be that other person who doesn’t know anyone else. There be that group of friends who are having random conversations with people that pass by them.
Look out for the lone rangers, if they don’t look like they are in a bad mood, walk up to them and say something light and humorous like: it looks like I’m not the only person here who doesn’t know everyone.
Tip: I’ve found that it's easier to start a conversation with a group of guys than a group of girls. Is it an opposite sex thing? (Any psychologists in the house?)
9. Buddy up
If you’ve got one or two friends in town, invite them to go for an event with you. It’s wayyy easier to network when you’re out with a friend as long as you fight the temptation to stick together the entire time.
I think it’s easier because, at the back of your mind, you know that even if you don’t connect with anyone, you could always walk back to your friend and hang out with them.
Tip: Let your friend know in advance what kind of event it is, so they are not putting pressure on you to leave because it’s not their kind of thing/crowd. You’ve also got to put the personality of your friend into consideration, if you’re going for a class/workshop, you don’t want to bring a friend that talks a lot along because you’ll probably not end up hearing anything over his/her talking. Is this a friend that’s going to let you walk the room or is this a friend that’s going to be your shadow the entire time?
10. Friends of friends
Next time you run into a friend that has another friend in tow, ask them how they met and let the story unfold. It’s extremely easy to connect with a friend of a friend.
Think about if for a moment, if you ran into your friend Chika who was with their friend Mary, Mary would be more open to you than she would be to a complete stranger because you’re friends with her friend Chika.
Tip: If you just moved to a new city, Ask your friends from your old city for people they know in your area.
Negative responses: Remember it’s not about you.
I would love to tell you that everyone you meet will be a darling when you start putting yourself out there but that would be a lie. However, in all my years of starting conversations with strangers and from the feedback of my clients, I can SAFELY say that 99% of the people you meet will be happy to have a conversation with you.
When you come across that 1% that gives you the kind of attitude that makes you wonder if they’re human or the kind that says ‘I have a boyfriend’ when you compliment their hair, just remember it’s not about you. If you were nice and approachable and 99% of people responded to you in a warm way, then there’s something wrong with them...not YOU!
Maybe they were brought up to believe that giving people attitude makes them come across as important, or maybe they’re just having a bad day or maybe they don’t know better.
Bottom line is, the problem is with them and not with you.
Starting conversations with people online
Starting conversations with people online is easier than starting conversations with people offline.
- Reply questions on social media
When you come across questions on people’s pages (what’s your plan for the weekend?...) respond to them.
- Join Facebook groups
Join Facebook groups around your interests and comment when people post and/or when people ask questions in the group. If you can answer a question, help. Add value.
It’s okay to window shop with Facebook Groups, join a couple, get the vibe of the group and leave the ones that are not a good fit.
Where the people at?
Great Places to meet people and start conversations
Now that you have a step-by-step system for building your confidence to start conversations, where do you meet people?
1. Ask friends and Family for fun events
Ask in person and ask on Facebook and Instagram. If you come across a friend’s post that looks like a lot of fun, reach out to them and ask them about it.
2. Join a social club
There are loads of social clubs all around the world. When you join a social club, you meet people that have similar interest which makes building a relationship easier.
Here are examples of global social clubs:
Toast Masters (for public speaking)
Global Shapers (movers & shakers)
Meetup.com is a great place to find social clubs around your interest worldwide.
Franglish (language exchange, French - English)
Wimbiz (Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt - monthly 'round table talks' for women in Management, Business & Public Service)
Eat.Drink.Lagos has a Lunch club. They create a delicious, interesting and exclusive experience for 10 people. I’ve never been but I hope to go soon. If you’re a foodie like me, you should definitely check it out.
Nedoux has a Sewing Club where she teaches how to make your own clothes. If you're a DIY lover, do check it out.
Bestman Games organizes occasional monopoly tournaments.
3. Start a social club
Starting a social club isn’t as difficult as it sounds. It can be as easy as inviting your neighbors for a glass of wine or tea. You could also put up a flyer/a poster on a social media platform around an interest and get people to meet up in the nearest coffee shop. If you’re a photography enthusiast, you could plan a photo walk around your neighborhood.
Chechi Arinze and I host a monthly hangout for entrepreneurs. In January 2016, we reached out to a couple of friends that were in town on New Year's day and asked them to meet up with us so we could review the past year and start 2016 on a great note...it transformed into this amazing support group for entrepreneurs.
My friend Jennifer Uchendu of Susty Vibes has sustainability-themed parties. The last one attracted over 60 people. If you’re interested in sustainability or recycling and you're in Abuja, Nigeria on the 26th of November, you should definitely check out the next one.
Lagos On Board, is another social club for game lovers (Ludo, Whot, Snakes & Ladders…)
Tip: If you are intrigued by the idea of starting a social club but feel you are too shy or introverted to do so, practice speaking up at the social events you go for, then gradually ask for more responsibility. You’ll get more confident.
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and make friends. I’ve met a number of amazing people through volunteering.
For Nigeria, I would recommend checking out Slum2School. I’m not as active as I used to be but it’s a great place to meet new people.
Dana Lardner in her Why I Give Series on her blog, interviews different people in different locations that volunteer for different organizations. It’s a great place to find an organization to volunteer for.
Volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to be around NGO’s and charities, you could intern/volunteer for the upcoming Fashion Week in your city. I know I met amazing people at Lagos Fashion & Design week 2 years ago.
5. Attend reoccurring events/conferences
Recurring events are a great place to meet people. You get to connect with the regulars or build relationships with people you click with. I’ve met some of the most amazing people at events.
Social Media Week is a week-long conference with lots of classes and workshops around social media.
EventBrite is a great place to find events close to you.
British Council also organizes interesting events, you'll just need to search for the one closest to you.
I’ve also heard a lot of great things about The WimBiz Annual Conference. This conference is WimBiz’s flagship event and holds in November every year. It is attended by over 1000 women from all over the world.
P.S: I’m accepting free tickets to The WimBiz Annual Conference. Seriously :)If you know someone that can hook me up, send them my way, biko.
6. Attend a workshop
When you attend a workshop around an interest, you connect with people that are like you and you get to learn.
If you’re just starting out in business, SLA organizes SheHive’s around the world. SheHive’s are great places to meet like minded women, network and learn a thing or two about running a business. There are workshops in Johannesburg (SA), Lagos (Nigeria), London (UK), New York (USA)
Naturals In The City (NITC) is a quarterly gathering for learning about natural hair and natural living.
7. Take a class
When you take a class around a hobby/passion, you create a relaxed environment to get to know people.
Google can be your best friend when it comes to finding classes in your area. Asking co-workers is also a great place to start.
In Lagos, we’ve got a number of classes: Salsa class , painting class - PtnAfrica, Sexy Fitness Classes for the ladies and Lagos Photo Summer School (LPSS) for those interested in photography. I met some pretty amazing people when I attended.
8. Go on tours/ Travel In Groups
Traveling in groups is one of the easiest ways to make friends and meet people. You spend a lot of hours together and get to experience a new place together...Bonding overload!
Global: TN Experiences by Travel Noire (you get to travel anywhere in the world and have your photos taken by a professional photographer)
Africa: Tastemakers Africa
Whenever you're in a new city, check out Trip Advisor (Things to Do) it tends to have a good list of things to see/do.
9. Attend carnivals and festivals
There’s just something about carnivals and festivals that makes people more open to strangers, maybe it’s the music.
Globally: Wings Magazine has an amazing article on global festivals/things to do globally (USA, UK, Africa) here
For Abuja, Nigeria: Designers Market Place (DMP) is Abuja's #1 monthly shopping festival. It takes place on the first Saturday of every month.
10. Look out for flyers
Make it a habit to look out for flyers and read them. I’ve found some of the coolest events on flyers. I once went for a FREE event and got to listen to some of the best classical musicians in the world all because I picked up a flyer.
11. Go to the Mall
The mall is a great place to meet people, especially when the food court is full and you have to share a table :)
Next time you go shopping, give a well-dressed stranger a compliment on their outfit then ask them which one of two outfits they would recommend and what accessories they think would go with it.
12. Use social media/ Search Instagram
Go on Instagram and #yourcity+events or #yourcity + life (#lagosevents, #lagoslife) chances are, you’ll find one or two accounts that post about the kind of events you like.
Join Facebook groups in your location around a hobby - ‘Photographers of Lagos’ then answer questions, add value and ask where events happen.
Networking Tip: you don’t necessarily have to avoid sensitive topics but seek to understand rather than be understood and don’t push the other person to talk if they're not willing to talk. Trust me, there are many other people willing to talk.
My Promise + Gift
At the beginning of this article, I promised I would share a step-by-step process to transform you into a conversation-starting guru. If I kept my promise...kindly let me know by dropping a comment below so I know this was not a complete waste of your time.
Here’s your free guide to starting conversations + 10 Questions to ask strangers:
If you’ve read this article, loved it and want more, my online course, Start Conversations Easily [SCE] covers all of this and more. You can find out more about it here
Let’s help each other out
comment below and let us know:
- Your biggest takeaway/lesson from this article
- Your favorite places to meet people and start conversations