I was driving to a morning event and needed to get on the road very early to make it on time. GPS wanted me to drive in and out of NYC to get to my destination. I had plenty of time so rather than exploring alternate routes, I decided to drive through the city.

About halfway between the Lincoln and Midtown Tunnels, I was stuck in traffic, mostly due to garbage trucks stopping to pick up trash.

I was stopped next to a garbage truck on my left and noticed the passenger in the truck looking at me and smiling while giving me a thumbs up. He seemed to like my very unusual looking (it’s big!) Jeep. Of course, thumbs up right back!

But now it felt weird that we had that brief interaction and we’re still stuck in traffic next to each other looking through our windshields.

I rolled down my window, then he rolled down his window.

I asked, “What time do you get started in the morning?”

He said, “About 4:00am.” I said, “Good that you can get started so early, I’ll bet you finish your workday early too.”

That dialogue led to a five-minute conversation about how he was starting a business and typically devoted his afternoons after his shift to work on his business. I congratulated him for his commitment and told him that his hard work would pay off and he would hit his goal.

It was a nice exchange.

He got out of the garbage truck, put an orange vest on, and directed traffic in front and around me to move so I could drive through. And voila, I was on my way and out of traffic!

Sometimes, striking the right conversation with a stranger can (literally!) clear your path – to a new client, job, or maybe the Midtown Tunnel.

The ability to talk to people and create a connection (sometimes serendipitously) is a valuable skill and important if you’re serious about expanding your network (even on garbage day).

Imagine how those skills can help you at a conference, trade show, networking meeting, cocktail party, or mixer!

Just have a series of opening questions top of mind that are engaging and perhaps valuable. As long as you’re genuinely interested in learning and helping, you’ll feel more confident starting conversations and meeting new people! Here are some of my more random openers.

  • Are you having a good day?I’ve been down that road!
  • You seem to have your hands full.
  • May I share a quick story with you?
  • Can I help you with that?
  • That is the story of my life!

In an actual business networking situation, my openers are a bit more specific, but always with a focus on being interested in learning more and having a fun exchange.

Other than, “Do you come here often?”, when YOU are networking, WHAT IS YOUR OPENING LINE?

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