I travel a bit in case you haven’t noticed. A lot of my travel is on my own to cities and countries where I may not know a single soul. As you can imagine a week of lunches & dinners by yourself can get boring. So I challenge myself to striking up conversations with strangers when I travel and also presenting myself as open to conversation.
Less than a year ago I went to a conference in Washington, D.C. The attendees were largely government and military types…a big departure from my typical event professional crowd. A night with some attendees at the Marine drills kickstarted an amazing week of fun and companionship with people from all over the world. We had lunches, outings to the Nationals game, the National Mall, and a pre-season Redskins game. I have carried these friendships on and email regularly with several people. Next month, I’m actually returning to DC to hang with one person from the conference. We are going to the Cherry Blossom Festival and exploring new places neither of us have been to.
In Paris I had a fascinating conversation with an elderly French woman sitting at the next table. In Stockholm, I talked with one of the guides and found out he was a merchant sailor. In West Virginia I met a vendor for my events. A co-worker of mine recently struck up a conversation with a nice man on the plane. They parted ways and couldn’t stop thinking about each other afterwards. A week later she got a nice wine gift basket from him. They are now planning on meeting for dinner.
How can you present yourself as open? Well let’s start with the basics –
- Put down your phone. Someone buried in their phone seriously puts off vibes of “not now, not ever.”
- Smile. There is nothing more attractive than someone that is smiling.
- Ladies – don’t stick your purse in the seat next to you – that means no one can sit beside you. First that’s rude because you shouldn’t take up more space than necessary and second who doesn’t want someone to saddle up to the bar next to them?
- Start a conversation with the bartender if the people next to you aren’t talking to you. A lot of people are shy about starting conversations. If you have a good one going with the bartender neighbors will feel more comfortable joining into the fun.
- Have the mindset that you are going to be open. I believe that to some degree that what you put out there is what you are going to get. If you have a closed mindset you need to work to be open to opportunities. The person you strike up a conversation could be your next big sell, a lifelong friend or even the love of your life, or worst case a fun conversation. You never know until you open up.