It’s always interesting to observe the social dynamics at play when a group of strangers gather. When I am in business meetings, at parties, on planes and at the gym, I like to convert strangers into friends. Simple conversation is the key to this social alchemy. As the founder of the advertsing agency The Weaponry, I know how conversation and rappoire enhance creative ideation, customer service and networking. But getting strangers to talk (without waterboarding) isn’t always easy. But there’s a simple technique that works like magic. And I have been using it since college.
Gotta Go Back In Time.
When I was in school at the University of Wisconsin I lived with a really fun group of Badgers. Slosh, Boo, Hammer and Jacquer. We had a lot of great parties at 1117 Mound Street. In fact, at our very first party we had the police come to our house at 4 o’clock in the norning (somewhere between night and morning). At another party we had to turn the music off for fear that the massive dance party in our living room was about to crash through the under-equipped floor, and become a deposit-erasing dance party in our basement. We knew how to have a great time.
One of our favorite party games involved name tags. We would hand out tags to all party-goers as they arrived, with just one simple rule:
Write anything you want on your name tag, except your name.
There is simply nothing better at getting people to talk to each other than an interesting, non-named name tag. It’s a fascinating study in psychology, sociology and creativity. The more fun you have with it the better it works. Be sure to tailor your non-name to the type of event you are attending. An interesting nickname, pick-up line, icon in pop culture, or the start of a joke can all work. Names like Knock Knock, Mime, My Little Friend (people always Say Hello to you) are proven, G-Rated winners. My great friend Betty Garrot, often reminds me that when we first met my name tag said, Person of Interest.
I forgot to mention, I play this game at gatherings now, even when I am the only one playing. Because it works that well. In fact, if I was to open a new bar, I would call the place, “Hello, My name is…” and implement this time-tested, conversation-sparking technique.
So buy a stack of name tags, have more fun and get more people talking at your next work party, social gathering, mixer, professional event, or wedding (I’m not encouraging you to have more than one wedding). If you have a great ice breaker that I should know about, please share it in the comment section below. Or is it comments section? Or does it depend on how many comments there are? I don’t really know.