Simply Said
Simply Said
Simply Said is the essential handbook for business communication.
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Hello, How Nice to Meet You

12-02-2010

It’s the holiday season again and your December calendar probably includes several parties. Sometimes striking up conversation with new people at a party can be a bit daunting.

Here are some guidelines to break the ice effectively:

  • Study the headlines. Before heading to the party, scan the headlines and note a few potential topics to discuss. The royal wedding, WikiLeaks and TSA pat downs will certainly spark some commentary.
  • Maintain eye contact. When introducing yourself, smile and look into the person’s eyes as you speak your name, and as they say theirs. As the conversation continues, keep your eye focus on this person and don’t scan the room looking for friends or others to meet.
  • Gesture openly. Avoid crossing your arms or clutching your drink with both hands as you talk. Instead, try and keep your hands apart and your arms relaxed. Gesturing makes you appear natural and approachable. Just stay mindful of nearby drinks and trays of hors d’oeuvres.
  • Ask a few questions. Sometimes you’ll need to jumpstart their side of the conversation. Try asking an open-ended question like “What are your holiday travels plans?” or “How is your holiday shopping coming along?” If their answer is short, build on the information you’ve just heard: “I hear Miami is fun at New Year’s, tell me more about the trip.”
  • Find a connection. As they’re answering your questions, find some element to pick up on. You’re listening for something to keep conversation going —“yes, I’m doing most of my shopping this year on-line as well, and I just found the greatest website for jingle bell baby booties.” Now it’s a conversation.
  • Speak slowly and pause. Keep the dialogue moving at a casual pace. If you talk too quickly, the listener will strain to keep up or may interpret your speedy delivery as a sign of nervousness. Pauses help slow you down, allowing you a second to breathe calmly and access your next thought.
  • Disengage politely. After five minutes or so, it’s perfectly fine to close the conversation. Exchange contact information, if you’d like. Ask them to join you on a trip to the bar. Or, simply smile, tell them you enjoyed chatting and move on.

We hope you meet lots of interesting people this month. Just start with “hello” and go from there. All of us at Exec-Comm wish you happy holidays and a new year filled with great conversations.

Best Regards,

Exec-Comm
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