How to Talk with Strangers

by Matt Mattson

Your parents always told you, NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS… But recruitment depends on your ability to do so! Yikes! 

One of the most intimidating things to do (for someone who hasn't practiced much) is to strike up a conversation with a stranger. It can be utterly frightening to reach out your right hand and introduce yourself. And then…

What do you talk about? 

How do you make it not seem creepy? 

How can you get started off on the right foot?

One of the core recommendations that Phired Up makes in its publications and training programs is to MEET AS MANY NEW PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE so that you can get their name and contact information — which at least gives you a chance to recruit them. Because, as you all know, YOU CAN't RECRUIT WHO YOU DON't KNOW.

Well, for those of you who have read some of our stuff or seen some of our training, you know about “SCREWING” people (or the Venus Hand Trap), you know about the 5 F*n Ways to Master Conversation, and you know about bridging, but still it can be hard to go up to someone cold and start that conversation — especially if you're just walking around campus and see someone, or if you're stuck in an elevator with someone, or if you're at a party and you see someone new, or if you're at the library, in line at the bookstore, at a pep rally, lifting weights, at the mall, etc. etc. etc. 

Imagine yourself in one of those situations now… you see someone who could be a potential new member for your organization, but how do you approach them? What do you lead off with? Like I said, YIKES!

Here's a simple tip to make it a little easier to start a conversation off cold with a stranger. 


I don't mean give them your expensive watch, or hand them a $20 bill. I do mean, approach them with the intention of telling them about something that might interest them.

Here's an example… Joey, a member of Alpha Beta Gamma Fraternity, is walking across the quad between classes and he see's Frank walking past. Frank is the president of the student government, the football team captain, and an all around good guy.

Joey: “Excuse me… um, my name's Joey” [handshake]

Frank: “Hi Joey, I'm Frank.”

Joey: “Hi Frank. I thought that was your name, but to be honest I wasn't sure. Sorry to stop you like this, but I recognized you from the student government meeting, and I wanted to let you know that my organization is doing a raffle this week — we're giving away an iPod.”

Frank: “Oh, that's cool. How do I get a raffle ticket, are you asking for money or something?”

Joey: “No, actually they're free. We recommend a $3 donation that goes directly to a charity, but all you really need to do is put your name and contact information on the back of this raffle ticket.”

Frank: “Oh, alright… I don't have any cash right now, but I’ll fill out a raffle ticket.”

Joey: “Thanks Frank. We’ll enter you to win. So where you headed?”

Frank: “To the gym to play some basketball.”

Joey: “That's cool. Hey, me and some buddies are putting together a weekly basketball game. Could I call you and let you know when we're playing?”

Frank: “Sure. Thanks. Talk with you then.”

Joey: “Alright, nice to meet you Frank. Have fun.”

Joey had something of value to offer to Frank. A raffle ticket. But what if you don't want to do a raffle? Then what. Well, here are several ideas to get your mind going… Think about approaching strangers with something of value to them, like these things:

  • Helping your group with a service event
  • Your group's giving away a small scholarship
  • Inviting them to a party/social event
  • Free information about an important cause
  • Information about campus events (not just your organization's events)
  • You are starting an intramural sports team
  • You are starting a new organization
  • Information about a study group that is going on
  • Let them know their backback zipper is unzipped
  • Tell them you like their shirt, hat, hair-do
  • Etc. Etc. (brainstorm your own)

The important thing about this tip is that you don't stop there. USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO START A NORMAL CONVERSATION. For those of you who have seen our stuff, use the 5 F*n Ways to Master Conversation here. Your goal isn't just to give out valuable information, but instead, use that valuable information to open the door to a full conversation.

Go get ‘em

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