It’s easy to meet people when you’re at an opening of your own art because you're the host or hostess. Your job is to meet everyone and to introduce your guests to one another.
Not true when you're the guest at someone else's opening. When you don’t have a role to play, it’s uncomfortable to force yourself to meet people.
And, yet, you know it’s important.
Students in my programs understand how critical it is to meet more people. New relationships might lead to opportunities, sales, and lifelong fans.
So what do you do? How do you start a conversation with a stranger without getting sick to your stomach? How do you introduce yourself as an artist?
Alyson to the rescue! Below is a list of conversation starters that you can start practicing immediately.
You don’t even have to be at an opening to begin. Try talking to the guy in the car next to you at the gas station or the woman in front of you at the grocery checkout. This builds your courage for facing the next opening.
Keep It In The Room
You are sharing an experience with everyone in the room. This is a terrific excuse for having a conversation.
Do you know the artist(s)? Alternatively: You appear to know about the artist. Do you mind telling me about her?
Have you been to other openings in this space?
What have you seen so far that you really like?
This is a nice show. Have you been to other interesting shows lately?
Did you see the way the artist (framed that piece, worked with the palette knife, glazed that pot)?
Did you read about the artist's …? Alternatively: I heard that the artist …
Take It Outside
Maybe you’re not loving the show and don’t have anything nice to say about it. Or perhaps you’ve exhausted the dialogue about the work you’re looking at.
It’s time to look for inspiration beyond the walls of the room you’re in.
Did you hear about … (artist, art controversy, story, public art piece)?
Have you seen the new public art at the convention center?
Focus On The Food
Food and drink are easy targets for conversation-starters. Adapt these suggestions to your situation.
Is that Merlot any good? (You can always count on wine and cheese at an art reception.)
Did you try the punch?!
You'd better grab one of those crab cakes before they disappear. They're delicious!
Come Right Out and Say It
Speak the truth.
My coach gave me an assignment to introduce myself to 10 people tonight who look interesting.
I promised myself I was going to meet 10 new people tonight and you’re one of the lucky ones.
I don't know anyone here, so I'm taking the bold step to introduce myself to people.
I have a friend who swears that acting like the hostess in a crowded room – even if you have no such role – makes it much easier to mingle. It gives you a job to do.
As I said above, when you’re the host or hostess, your job is to meet everyone and introduce people to one another. Make people comfortable and happy to be there.
Consider going to an opening and pretending to be the hostess. Nobody but you needs to know about your secret role.
I’m just going around seeing if everyone is enjoying themselves. Are you?
Stick With Old Standards
They may sound trite or mundane, but you never know where they'll lead.
Have you seen this many people in the gallery before? Alternatively: Wonder where everyone is tonight?
Did you have a hard time finding parking, too?
Was traffic as bad for you as it was for me?
It's so nice to be in the air conditioning tonight. Alternatively: I was so happy to come in to a warm gallery.
Dangle a Compliment
You can’t go wrong with a sincere compliment. It works for both men and women to compliment hair, clothing, or shoes.
Someone once said to me at an opening: I'm having a hard time looking at the art because I keep staring at your shoes.
I’ll take that!
Remember how lovely it feels when someone compliments you, and return the favor. Next time, instead of just thinking about what a good-looking shirt that guy has on, tell him.
How do you meet strangers at art openings?