HOW TO TALK TO STRANGERS IN 4 EASY STEPS / by Bo Gerard

A guide for shy performers.

Adele, Bob Dylan, Cher, Freddy Mercury, David Bowie, Elvis Presley and many, many other celebrities were noted for their reluctance to stand around and chat with strangers.  And this phenomenon is not limited to the super famous.  I have personally known many entertainers who had a hard time connecting with people at parties or even talking to audience members after a show.

One of the common misconceptions about introverts is that they are shy. Since the two terms are used interchangeably, most of us have been led to think that they are the same thing.  In truth, introversion and extroversion have more to do with whether we recharge our batteries by getting some peace and quiet, or whether we get charged up from highly stimulating environments around lots of people.  So, you could be introverted, and not at all shy. Or introverted and shy. Or an extrovert, but totally shy and afraid of what others might think of you.

But we all, at some time, find ourselves in a situation that requires us to have long, semi-personal conversations with agents, clients, or even fans.  Take, for instance, the gig I just did in San Antonio.  I was hired to perform my magic and comedy in a hospitality suite for two evenings - five hours the first night and six hours the second.  This company actually gets a lot of business done during these times so, sometimes there was no one to perform for, who was not talking business.  So, I had a choice.  Stand in the corner like a dope and wait around for a likely group to perform for, our talk to the other company representatives that were also standing around.

These folks were chemical engineers, and you would think we had very little in common, but my strategy for verbal intercourse works whether you have something in common with a person or not.  Here’s what you do.

1)  BE A TALK SHOW HOST - Ask them how long they have been with the company.  If the conversation stalls, ask where they grew up.
2)  DON’T GIVE UP - Keep asking questions until you see an opportunity to…
3) TELL A STORY - Inject some info or a story from your own life that is related to one of their answers.  “Oh, you’re from Orlando!  I just came back from Orlando.  I did a show at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.”  And then you’re off - talking about Florida, weather, travel, whatever!
4)  IF THINGS STALL, GO BACK TO STEP 1 - Just keep asking questions – “I see your name is Jaager – is that a Dutch name?”

What are your tactics to keeping a conversation going with a stranger?