First Impressions

Step by step to starting conversations with strangers

In previous posts I have suggested that-Your network will save your business, given the chance and cared for.

And I suggested 3 thoughts that will help turn you into brilliant networkers. The three things to think about were-

  1. Generosity– people are lovely when they realise you only want to help them. So look for opportunities for simple, sincere acts of generosity.
  2. Sincerity– Everyone is a hero to themselves. So look for the chance to make people feel good about themselves without recourse to flattery.
  3. Strokes & double-clicks– People like to be listened to and we all love to be ‘stroked’ for who we are.  So actively find opportunities to look for the best in people you meet, and tell them.  ‘Double-clicking‘ is simply the habit of asking further questions about things that the other person has said (like double-clicking on a link on a website)- Try, ‘Sounds fascinating- what did you do? Or, ‘Impressive, tell me more.’

So far, so abstract, and hard to understand without an example. so here’s a step-by-step case study, from real life, to demonstrate how you might make it work for you-


[box]I’m sitting in the restaurant car, on a train journey, having a rather good breakfast, and I’m opposite a young woman, who’s asleep. I suppose that she got the 6am train a few hundred miles north of me, and is just waking up in time to arrive in London for who knows what purpose. She wakes up, realises I’m sat opposite her and smiles, embarrassed at her recent unconsciousness. I offer her a spare croissant with a smile.

‘Would you like one of these? there’s plenty to spare.’ Generosity

‘No thanks’, she says, ‘it’s a bit early for me’.

‘OK, but feel free to help yourself.’ Generosity & stroke – She smiles. A few minutes pass, and she seems more awake, goes to the WC and returns to her seat. I ask,

‘An early start?’

‘Yes, I left Glasgow at 5.30 this morning.’

‘Poor you. Is it a regular trip?’ Stroke & double click

‘About twice a month’.

‘Sure you don’t want that croissant?’ Generosity & stroke

‘Well if you’re sure, I’m starving.’ I pass her the croissant, Jam and a knife, and we eat in silence for a few minutes. Then I ask her,

‘What takes you to London?’ (open question, double click) thinks, and decides to answer,

‘I’m a lawyer, for Rolls Royce, and we have regular contract meetings with our Solicitors.’

‘Sounds interesting? Rolls Royce Cars? Aero? Stroke & double click

‘Aero, I’m surprised you knew. (Stroke back) Most people think Cars.’ [/box]


And that was it.  We chatted for 30 minutes, she asked about me and what I do, and I told her as little as possible. It’s a real temptation to talk & talk & talk about yourself when asked, but resist the temptation.

Your task, when meeting people you don’t know, is to carry on finding out about them.  Being interested in the other person is  the core skill of networking, and it’s effective, because the skill is so rare.  Most, even experienced networkers, spend far too long talking, not listening.

Listening is simply another type of social generosity, and is hugely appreciated as a core skill of a colleague, friend, and business contact.  I practice it at every (almost) opportunity that I get.  On trains, planes, bars and anywhere I can that’s safe and secure for both parties.



  1. Pingback: The core skill of networking- start conversations with strangers | World class presentation skills- Jim Harvey

  2. Pingback: Networking tips for successful business | World class presentation skills- Jim Harvey

  3. Pingback: Why does pole-dancing pay better than consulting? Easy… | Jim Harvey- Personal Impact & Public Speaking Blog

  4. Pingback: Why does pole-dancing pay more than consulting? Easy | Pitching for Business

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


To Top