So you are standing in a line at SXSW or waiting at the bar and someone you don’t know has just made eye contact with you.
That awkward moment strikes.
Your internal voice shrieks “you should say something.”
And then, the first thing that comes to mind is “sooo… amazing weather, huh?” leaving you filled with self-loathing for the world’s most unoriginal, impersonal icebreaker.
Later, by the way, to be followed by the second most unoriginal (but necessary) question: “what do you do, Steve?”
Here are three alternatives to checking the weather that I like:
- “where are you from?” quickly followed, if you discover you live in the same city, with “oh yeah? what part of town?”
- “what’s the gossip?” which half the time gets an immediate reply of “what do you mean?” to which you can define however you want, e.g., gossip about “the best party” “worst speaker” “most famous celebrity who snuck into town” etc.
- “how’s the network?” that (admittedly) is a geeky version of the weather icebreaker, but eminently more useful at SXSW, where you never know exactly how the wifi and 4g are going to respond
So, have fun out there at #SXSW2015 and don’t ask about the weather…because, ya know, in Austin it changes every 24 hours in the spring anyhow!
One thought on “Three Icebreakers for SXSW Networking”
Steve… great post. I think that the first thing to remember is that when you are near other carbon based like forms there is a chance to make a meaningful connection. All opportunities come from people, so to not talk to each other is a mistake.
A great question to ask at SXSW (or any event) is “Why did you attend this conference?” You see, you have a reason (or reasons)… but you might not have thought about the reasons others are present. Your asking gives them the chance to share their motivation, and you could discover a new purpose.
I think many get all quirky inside if we talk about “icebreakers” (because many speaker and conference planner force dumb ones on people). So instead of thinking of “icebreakers” think of being the catalyst that helps the people around you. Many might want to talk to you and others, but wont…. so if you start a conversation you might be freeing the other person to get engaged.
For those coming to SXSW…. make it a game. When in those awkward not talking situations, be the change you want in the world and just say “Hello”. There is power in hello… and sometimes it can lead to an amazing spontaneous “Hallway Conversation”/