Edward walked into the networking event filled with new faces. People were clustered in small groups of 2 or 3 or 4, chatting, laughing, exchanging business cards.

He’d been in this situation hundreds of times before. So why, after all these times, was he still nervous when entering a room full of strangers, uncomfortable with going over to people and starting a conversation?

Raneeda felt the butterflies fluttering around her stomach as she heard the ringing on the other end of the line. She had finally worked up the nerve to call the CFO of a mid-sized company right in the sweet spot of her business, a man whom she had met at a networking event a week ago. As she heard the phone ring once, twice, those butterflies were getting more and more persistent as she tried to figure out what to say to coolly break the ice with Mr. CFO when he answered the phone.

Why is icebreaking such a sore point for people? What are the best ways for melting all that ice?

We are all in the same boat on a sea of self-consciousness.

No one likes facing the possibility of rejection, or looking foolish or saying the wrong thing to strangers.You may be happy to learn a little known fact I discovered doing research for my book, Network Like A Fox : even top CEO’s are nervous when entering a room full of strangers, and concerned about how to break the ice with new people!

I don’t know about you, but that made me feel much better. I don’t feel so alone with my butterflies.

Nevertheless, hugging the walls at networking events will not win you new contacts, or clients.

So how do you break the ice with flair and confidence, warm up those promising new connections, and turn them into hot opportunities?

The most important thing to remember about breaking the ice is that people will be thrilled and grateful to you for being the proactive one, the first to break the ice. So here are 7 ways for becoming a rockstar icebreaker – whether at a networking event, fundraiser, new group, or even over the phone:

1. Make the first move. By being the proactive one and walking over to (or phoning) new people, introducing yourself, and initiating the conversation, you take the pressure off of others. This will give you greater power, confidence and ease your own nerves.

2. Come prepared with insightful icebreaker questions.  Be the person who takes the time to research who will be attending the event and have a handle on who will likely be in the room. Come armed with some great icebreaker questions that are relevant to attendees. Ask them insightful, open-ended icebreaker questions and wow them with some understanding about their world. You are certain to be a standout to your new colleagues.

3. Make eye contact. Eye contact breaks down barriers. In our culture  we value eye contact because it lets people know we are interested in them and paying attention to them. Avoid letting your eyes wander around the room. Be present with the one you’re with and warm up that new connection.

4. Break the ice selectively. Groups of 3, 4 or more are fine to approach; avoid approaching duos – they may be in a private conversation.

5. Listen. The better a listener you are, the more you will crack the ice and warm up the relationship. People want to be heard.Through your focus and listening, you let people know you’ve been hearing what they say. This will go a very long way to deepening the rapport between you and is especially important when breaking the ice over the phone.

6. Smile. You have no idea how good people feel when you are smiling at them. Smiling is the best antidote for all those nervous butterflies -yours and theirs. And people can experience your smile in your voice too, so don’t forego this excellent tip when phone icebreaking.

7. Say something positive. Everyone likes to have others compliment or say something favorable about them. Make a point of finding something nice to say about your new colleague – about his or her business, what he or she has shared, their business card, their website. Find something nice to say to someone about them and watch that ice melt in a flash.

What’s Your Icebreaker Winner?

My free tip booklet, 55 Great Icebreaker Questions To Break The Ice, Build Conversations, and Become An Irresistible People Magnet At Networking Events is downloaded hundreds of times every month. Here’s your chance to show me up:

Got a fantastic icebreaker question?

If it’s not already in my tip sheet, and I think it adds something new to the list, and you’re one of the first 5 people to send me a winner icebreaker question I’ll not only add it to my list, I’ll give you credit in the tip sheet and a free e-copy of my book, Network Like A Fox.

Go here to now and submit your icebreaker question on our Facebook “Show Up The Networking Coach Contest” page:  http://bit.ly/12hFM3g

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