When you’re trying to meet new people, motivating yourself to attend some kind of social event is half the battle. But once you arrive, the next step—chatting up the people you meet—can be a little intimidating, especially for those who are a bit more introverted and a bit less talkative to begin with.
Striking up a conversation with folks you don’t know is a valuable skill both personally and professionally. You can open doors to new friendships and make a good impression on your colleagues. Overall, you’ll feel a more rewarding sense of connection with your fellow human beings.
Like any skill, navigating the intricacies of small talk takes practice and patience, but you’ll be surprised how quickly progress comes. With a little effort and a few helpful hints, you’ll be chatting the day away at your next Meetup event!
Tips for making conversation with people you don’t know yet
When you find yourself in a social setting with somebody you just met, the best advice is simply not to panic. It’s perfectly normal to feel a flutter of nerves at first, but going overboard with worry is a surefire way to grind any conversation to a halt. Calm those nerves by keeping in mind that you and the other person already have some common ground by attending this particular Meetup event.
Start off by exploring what piqued your interest about this event. For example, if the Meetup group you’re socializing with is a book club, language exchange, film appreciation group, or a community of museum-goers, you have an amazing foundation for conversation built into the event. Your shared passions can be a stepping stone into chat about your background, your work, your hobbies, your creative goals, and so much more. From there, stick to these best practices:
- Ask lots of questions — People want to feel engaged by their conversation partners. In fact, the American Psychological Association has published research indicating that people who ask more questions are better liked by their conversation partners than people who ask fewer questions. Your questions can be as broad as “What career would you have if you could choose anything?” or as specific as “Those are awesome earrings; where did you get them?” Just use common sense to guide your questions. Don’t go too personal too fast.
- Be an active listener — Conversations are a two-way street. Nobody wants to feel like the person they’re chatting with is barely listening or just waiting for the chance to talk about themselves again. Remember: it’s not all about you. If the other person has different interests, keep an open mind and put yourself in their shoes. When you’re really listening to what the other person has to say, it’s much easier to respond and keep the conversation flowing.
- Be yourself — Don’t let your nerves convince you that you have to put up some kind of false exterior or made-up persona in order to appear interesting to others. Most people have a strong radar for fakery and can tell when someone’s not being genuine with them. Who you are is more than good enough! So go into your conversations with confidence and honesty.
- Be complimentary — You’re not the only one feeling a little anxious about making connections with new people. Therefore, it takes more than overcoming your own nerves to help conversation blossom. You can take some of the pressure off your conversation partner and help them feel relaxed by offering a simple compliment. Plus, focusing your attention onto them can help you get out of your own head. A comment as simple as “I like your shoes” can be a gateway into many minutes of chat.
- Be courageous — Once in a while, conversation with someone you don’t know comes naturally. It feels like you’ve been friends for years. More often, though, it takes a bit of effort, and there may be fits and starts. Don’t let the fear of a few awkward moments prevent you from forming new connections. Dig deep and discover your bravery. You’ll realize that a bit of turbulence along the way is totally normal, and the destination is so worth it.
More strategies for different stages of your social journey
Maybe you’ve tried some of these tips, but you’re still having trouble developing past small talk to actual friendship. Maybe all of this sounds like a scary dive off the deep end. Don’t worry! Getting comfortable with chatting is a process, not an on/off button. There is no test: you’re not failing simply because you’re facing some challenges. If anything, those challenges are helping you gain experience and grow.
To make things easier, you could bring a friend you already know to your next Meetup event. In a social situation where you don’t know most people, one friend can be a safety net. But try to make sure you spend some time apart making new connections before reconvening. Another strategy is to try an online event before meeting in person. This allows you to establish yourself with the group in a low-pressure environment, so you’ll have a little confidence boost when you meet other members IRL.
Keeping in mind that getting better at conversation takes practice, you can commit to working on your small talk skills by making your own Meetup group like David Good. He’s a self-described introvert who shared his guide to friendship on the Keep Connected podcast with Meetup CEO David Siegel. You can easily create your own Meetup group like David’s West Michigan Geeks and invite others to join you on your social journey.
Last modified on January 11, 2022