20 Icebreakers You Can Use at Any Networking Event, Party or Any Potentially Scary Social Situation

How the hell do you go up to a stranger and not feel weird? Here are some magical lines!
Publish date:
June 27, 2013
networking, icebreakers

Last night we had the best time at xoJane's Babeland meetup mixer. Emily was hilarious, Jane was brilliant, Madeline was flawless, Olivia was a photo genius, Marci and Annie worked it and -- yeah it was awesome.

Right after the evening I was over, I checked Twitter, and one tweet in particular jumped out at me:

So here's what I wrote back:

But I totally get how hard this whole thing is. Especially having just come from this kind of an event. And I love it when the effort and risk expended pays off -- like for my friend on Twitter here who inspired this article!

So here's my speech. If you're at all sensitive or self-aware and you've seen people act a little too in-your-face misguided over-aggressive OMG-now-you're-just-dying-watching-them crap-I-never-want-to-come-off-like-that-jerkwad -- well, then don't worry. You won't. People like that don't even have the self-awareness to realize what is happening. But you do.

So sometimes the best thing you can do is actually force your social outgoingness to swing in the opposite direction.

Because honestly: If you are WORRIED you'll be a jerk, you will probably never act like a jerk.

Jerks don't ever even worry about it. They just fumble and bumble. Instead, try to nudge yourself even farther in the opposite direction and see if you can make yourself get out there socially at an event that might at first be intimidating. Because don't worry. You are safeguarded. Just the fact that you don't want to be too in your face or act lame means you are not in danger of it.

In fact, the best favor you can probably do is to push your social-o-meter in the other direction if at all possible. You can do it.

To get you started, here are 20 icebreakers you can use at any party or networking type event. Also: Don't ever be afraid to go up to someone even if everyone's backs are turned and you are kind of lingering on the outside. Just call it out! Say, "Hey, if you don't mind, I just wanted to introduce myself. Keep talking, I just wanted to say hello!" Unless they are completely rude, the circle of folks will open to include you in the conversation. Awesome!

Now here we go:

1. "That's a great necklace. Where did you get it?"

2. "Have you tried the food yet? Those egg rolls look pretty fantastic. I'm trying to figure out if I should try one or not."

3. "Do you know the party organizer? I feel like he might be the one guy here who knows everyone in the city."

4. "Is this your first time coming to this event? Do you have any pointers?"

5. "Do you have any plans for Fourth of July? I'm thinking about taking a trip out of the city and asking everyone for recommendations."

6. "Is that an Android? Do you like it? I've got an iPhone but I think I have Android envy. Are you happy with all its features?"

7. "I love this song they're playing. I was watching the news this morning, and they were talking about what the song of the summer might be. I honestly think it might be this one."

8. "I'm excited for the weekend coming up soon. Have you seen any good movies lately? I just saw 'World War Z,' and I loved it."

9. "Have you ever been to this bar before? I'm trying to only go to new bars this summer so I'm asking everyone if they have any favorite new spots to go."

10. "It's so funny to watch everyone at these parties nowadays. I feel like people spend half the time on their phones. I don't mind it, but it's wild to think how different a party like this would have been 10 years ago. I heard of a party game where you can collect everyone's phones before dinner begins to prevent people from being rude. Then, if someone grabs theirs they have to pay for dinner."

11. "Today is my first day of waking up and starting the morning with a run, and I'm wondering if I'm going to keep it up tomorrow. Do you ever run in the city?"

12. "All this food looks so good but I had the best sushi for lunch and don't know if I have the room. Are the desserts worth it?"

13. "I'm trying to make myself meet new people here instead of just talking to the usual suspects. Do you mind me saying hello and introducing myself?"

14. "I just wanted to quickly say hello and introduce myself. You seem like an incredible mentor to so many people, and I wanted to say thank you. Here's how you have personally inspired me."

15. "I'm about to hit the bar so I was asking folks if I could grab them anything. You need a drink?"

16. "I just got a new batch of business cards in today so I'm trying to make use of them. I'll give you my very first one!"

17. "Are you having any fun? I didn't know what to expect but so far I'm meeting some pretty cool people so far. Do you work in the industry?"

18. "How are you surviving this heat so far? I'm so glad I changed before coming here. This weather lately has felt like a 1,000 degrees."

19. "Have we ever met before? You look familiar. I'm pretty sure I follow you on Twitter. I love what you write there."

20. "I just wanted to tell you I really like your work. I'm sure you busy meeting a lot of people here, but I would kick myself if I didn't take the opportunity to introduce myself. Thank you for throwing such a great party."

What about you? Got any lines you'd suggest? (And did you go last night? Everyone I met was so stylish, beautiful and lovely! Thank you for coming out!)

UPDATE: As Kristina mentions in the comments below, another great trick is to make sure everyone in a group knows one another. The re-introduction helps everyone feel comfortable or included and also is a great cheat for helping to remember people's names and what they do -- or how they figure into the event at hand.

And, bonus! Several editors and writers emailed me some awesome thoughts as well. Here they are!

From Corynne: "I'm usually pretty blunt -- what brings you here, how are you involved in this, are part of this whatever thing the event is for ... But then I'm genuinely interested in the answer. If you're just looking to weed out people you don't think are important (which is not smart networking in my opinion) then you'll just come off as a bitch. Whatever the answer is, genuinely engage to find out more about the perish. Sincerity (for me) is key. ALSO: the looking over your shoulder at who else is around thing is the worst!!!"

From Hannah: "I usually compliment people on their outfit. If I see something about their style that makes a positive impression on me I let them know."

From Claire: "Food and drink is always a good ice breaker. The food doesn't even half to be good; you could just start a conversation about how bad the food is. This will backfire if you're talking to the caterer or host though, so it's probably best to stick to the positive."

From Helena: "Second Hannah. Sincere compliments --outfit, shoes, hair, jewelry, makeup--always break the ice with women. Men can be tricky because they think you're tryna holler. So I usually just get forward and introduce myself cold with a handshake to an older man. And then compliment his work. 'that article you wrote...' 'that painting of yours ...'"

From Natalie: "I am another rogue complimenter, I usually being with 'I love your shoes/bag/hair/face/eyeliner' and go from there."

From Marianne: "Compliments for sure. But if I know we know someone in common, I will often mention that as a lead in to a specific comment or question. 'Oh, hi, I think we both know *name of person*. She was just talking about your *thing that they do.*'"


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