Tip No. 1: Start a Conversation With a Compliment
See someone cool and you don't quite know how to approach them? Give a compliment! "I don't think people compliment other people enough," Meier says. "So when you give a compliment that's genuine, a real compliment, it really makes you a bit more likeable and it connects you with the other person, because it can be a conversation opener as well."
Try out a compliment that can lead to further questions: When you tell a stranger, "I like your shoes," you can follow up by asking where they got their shoes, and the convo can go on.
Tip No. 2: Put Away Your Phone
You might think your phone is there to save you from awkward situations, but it's not really helping you. "When you enter a room, as much as you might want to go back to your comfort zone of looking at your phone and checking your email, it's one of the worst things you can do," says Meier. "It makes you look unapproachable. You don't look like you're really interested in having a conversation." Put your phone away and take a deep breath.
Tip No. 3: Be Bold
So, you put away your phone but no one is chatting you up? Time to take things into your own hands! "It takes practice, but you just have to be brave and introduce yourself," says Meier. "People actually respect that, because it doesn't always happen. Then, think of some questions you can ask to keep the conversation going. It takes practice to build up more confidence over time but it's worth it." Don't be afraid to put yourself out there—eventually, it will start to feel easier and easier.
Tip No. 4: Focus on Personality, Not Facts
"The questions and topics you should ask should be more about the personality," says Meiers. Not, 'So what do you do? Where do you live?' Rather, 'So what did you do this weekend? Where did you go last night?' You want to make sure you have a lot in common with them, rather than factually trying to dig for details about their life." It never hurts to find points of bonding—ask about TV shows, books, and hobbies, for a start.
"You don't want it to seem like you're trying to see if they can help you in any way."
When it comes to networking, try not to go too personal at first. "Be cautious you're not coming across as opportunistic," Meiers says. "Try asking more about what their role is in either an industry or company, and not so much their specific job—you don't want it to seem like you're trying to see if they can help you in any way."
Tip No. 5: Follow Up
After you connect with someone, be sure to ask for their phone number or email, that way a simple meeting can turn into a relationship. "A lot of people say, 'Wait three days,' that kind of thing, and I don't advise that at all," says Meier. "The next day, write a follow up. Repeat something in the e-mail or the text that you talked about during conversation to not only remind them who you are, but the conversation you had." Once you reconnect, you can make plans to see each other again—and just like that, you're on your way to making a new friend/business connection/romantic possibility. Putting your phone away was worth it, right?