It’s funny the things you know, but that don’t register until the fact is called to your attention. That happened to me today. I ran across an article on by Ilise Benun of The Marketing Mix blog.

Ilise relates a story that came straight home to roost. It’s about Jack, a person who doesn’t like to eat alone, so often he will sit at the bar in a restaurant in the hopes of having someone to talk with. Only Jack admits that if he doesn’t start talking right away, “that tiny window of opportunity” is lost. Whether it’s a shyness thing, awkwardness sets in; and he finds it difficult to start a conversation after time passes. Boy, can I relate to that. I’m no shrinking violet, I’ll let you know, but darned if that hasn’t happened to me.

Ilase suggests a couple of ideas on getting started:

  • “Simply say, ‘How are you today?’
  • “Comment on something you see. If they’re reading, ask about the reading material. If they’re eating, ask about the food.
  • “Offer to share something you have, whether it’s food (I always carry good dark chocolate just for this purpose) or a newspaper. “

And to keep in mind that:

  1. “The content of your opening line is irrelevant. It simply serves the purpose of saying "I am available to talk if you are." A simple acknowledgment and "Hello" can do the trick. It’s like sticking a wedge in the door so it won’t close.
  2. “The other person may be self-conscious too. So be sensitive to their openness and proceed accordingly. He or she may appreciate your effort or may not be in the mood to talk. If the response you get is a perfunctory one, don’t push. But you should absolutely not take it as a personal rejection. It has nothing to do with you.”

So, whether you are in a bar, on a plane, or in any networking situation, jump right in and test the waters. If the person isn’t the chatty type, you’ll know that soon enough, but at least you won’t blame yourself for a missed opportunity to network with a potential client or referral source.