Do you know how to talk to people? Approaching people at networking events, parties or in public can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be! I want to teach you some easy ways to talk to people. It’s all about using conversation tricks.

Even though you were not taught this skill at a young age, I want to teach you how you can bond quickly and effectively with new people.

The Warm-up

Before we get into what to say to new people, I want to talk about:

  • Your warm-up
  • Your approach
  • And what happens before the interaction

We’ll think of this as people foreplay. To avoid a cold interaction, you want to have a warm approach. The most important thing you want to do when you are approaching someone for the first time is to send off “Friend Signals”. When we first meet someone, our brain has to quickly decide–is this person a friend or foe? To distinguish between the two, here are a few examples to watch out for:

Foe Signals:

  • Crossed arms
  • Lack of eye contact 
  • Hidden hands

Friend Signals:

  • Open body language; open torso with nothing blocking you
  • Direct eye contact upon approach
  • Visible hands ready for the handshake

So the next time you are about to meet someone new, make sure you approach them with friend signals. You will also earn bonus points if you smile at them.

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The Opener

Okay, so now that you have approached with friendly, warm nonverbal signals, what do you say to someone? Pick-ups and opening lines tend to make people very nervous, but don’t worry, the opening line is not as important as you might think. One of the best and effective pick-up lines is also the simplest. Are you ready for it?

The best opening line is… ‘Hey, how are you?’ Simple right? This opening line is easy and effective. So don’t drive yourself crazy coming up with something clever or witty. Just say, ‘Hey, how are you?’ This has worked for me 100% of the time.

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The Shake

After or during your opening line, give out your hand for a nice solid handshake. But what if you are not a shaker? Too bad, I want you to step up and shake the other person’s hand anyways. Why? Because handshakes are so important. The moment your skin touches someone else’s skin, you release chemicals that help you bond. If you need to perfect the art of the perfect handshake, check out our video here.

Some good rules of thumb to keep in mind for your next handshake: keep your hands dry and keep your handshake firm.

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The Intro

Now it’s time to introduce yourself. After you open with ‘Hey, how are you?’, you want to start building rapport. The way to do this is to start with who you are and how you have arrived. And if you can, bounce it back to them. For example, I could say, ‘Hey, I’m Vanessa. This is my first time at this conference, how about you?’ Then they would respond, and guess what? You are now in a conversation and are no longer strangers.

My final tip for you is to use food and drink as an opener if you can. Sitting at the bar is the easiest way to make conversation with the person next to you. Siding up to the buffet line to chit-chat is super simple. We all eat and drink, so it’s an easy way in.

Here’s some advice your momma never gave you: Go out and talk to some strangers and see how easy it is to talk to anyone.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

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