There are many ways to start talking to someone new. I recommend that you memorize only two or three, so you don’t forget them.
Pick ones that you can use anywhere, anytime. Which ones sound most natural to you? The most important thing is that you’re comfortable saying them when you introduce yourself.
Here’s the easiest one: just say hello and your name. Then, if possible, shake hands.
Amy: Hello. I’m Amy.
(Offer your hand.)
Brian: Hello, I’m Brian.
Amy: Nice to meet you.
See? It’s that easy. You can also break the ice by using other common greetings like “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good evening.”
After the first greeting, the best way to break the ice is to ask for very basic information. This gives you a reason for starting the conversation.
Here are some examples:
How are you?
Where are you from?
What are you doing here? or What brings you here?
Are you having a good time?
Another great ice breaker is a compliment. Find something you like about them and tell them.
Just be a little careful here when picking an object to compliment. A good rule of thumb is to avoid discussing permanent characteristics (e.g. someone’s physical appearance, accent, etc.), because it can really come off wrong. They might be offended or think it’s too forward (overly-friendly).
I love your dress.
You have a beautiful dog.
Is that your car? I really like it.
2. Prepare Basic Answers About Yourself
Prepare some basic answers about yourself now, so that you can introduce yourself with confidence and perfect English in the moment.
Keep your answers short and simple so you have less time to make mistakes—and less time to lose someone’s attention!
Have answers ready for these questions:
Where are you from?
What do you do?
What are you doing here?
Do you like your job?
How was your trip?
Are you having a good time?
What do you think of the weather?
What do you think of the movie/event/conference/restaurant?
Even when questions are specific, you can have a general response prepared. Say something generally positive, then add in more detail. Adding the detail keeps the conversation interesting. Then you can ask a question.
Brian: What do you think of restaurant?
Amy: It’s really nice. I especially liked the fish. Did you?
Brian: How do you find the conference?
Amy: It’s really interesting. I especially liked the first speaker. What did you think?
Brian: How was your trip?
Amy: It was mostly fine. I only had one layover. How was yours?
3. Ask Follow-up Questions to Spark a Conversation
Now you need to keep the conversation going. Part of introducing yourself is letting the person you’re talking to introduce himself/herself, too.
To do this, have more simple questions ready. Like before, have three or four questions memorized. These questions can be more general to spark a real conversation.
Questions are always better than comments, because they make the other person talk, and this gives you time so that you can think of new things to say.
Did you read the news about _____?
Have you seen [movie/TV show]?
Do you like this neighborhood/bar/city?
You can also use some of the questions that we discussed in section two.
4. Ask Even More Questions to Keep the Conversation Going
If you aren’t confident in your English skills, it’s much easier to listen to the other person than it is to speak.
Pay attention to the answers from your first questions and ask for more details. People like talking about themselves, so this won’t be a problem. Below are some sample conversations.
Amy: How are you?
Brian: A little tired.
Amy: Why is that?
Brian: I didn’t sleep well last night.
Amy: I’m sorry to hear that. What went wrong?
Brian: I’m a bit jet-lagged from my flight.
Amy: I bet. Where did you fly from?
Brian: I came from London last night.
Amy: That’s far! Was it a long flight?
Brian: Just a few hours. But I had a long layover in Frankfurt.
You can see how Amy keeps the conversation going each time by asking Brian for more information. When she does this, she also learns more about him.
Let’s look at another example:
Amy: Where are you from?
Brian: I’m from England.
Amy: Wow! That’s far! When did you arrive?
Brian: I flew in last night.
Amy:Was it a long flight?
Brian: Just a few hours. But I’m still feeling jet-lagged.
Amy:What’s the time difference?
We can see how this conversation is a little different, but the same questions still work.
When we meet people, we usually have similar conversations to introduce ourselves and get to know each other better. That’s why it’s important to practice these introductions and memorize some of these common questions.
Let’s look at one more example. Let’s say Amy and Brian are both at a business conference.
Amy: What are you doing here?
Brian: I’m here for the conference.
Amy: So am I. What company are you from?
Brian: I’m with the Sales team from Samsung.
Amy: That’s really interesting. Do you like it?
Brian: Most of the time, yes.
Amy:What do you like about it?
Brian: I get to travel to nice conferences like this!
When you’re traveling for business, asking what people do for work is always a safe bet. However, be careful to keep the conversation positive. Don’t say anything bad about their work in case they disagree with you!
5. Have an Exit Plan
Not all conversations are going to be good.
If you find you have nothing more to say or you’re not connecting with the person you’re talking with, you need a way to leave politely. Otherwise, there could be a lot of awkward silences. Here are a few key lines for leaving politely:
Excuse me, I need to [find my friend/go to a meeting]
Well, it’s been lovely talking to you.
Best of luck.
Nice to meet you, Brian.
I hate to run off, but I need to go.
Let me give you my card before I go.
Enjoy your time here!
As you say these phrases, hold out your hand for a handshake, making it clear that you’re ending the conversation.
6. Smile and Be Confident!
You’re your own biggest judge.
Most people will be happy that you came and talked to them. Even if you make a mistake when you introduce yourself, keep talking. People will remember your smile and your confidence more than any small errors.
Finally, practice saying these expressions a few times at home or with a friend so that when you meet someone new, you’ll be prepared.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run. It’s been lovely talking to you about how to introduce yourself in English!