After a year and a half spent isolating, the very thought of having to get back into the dating game can make you feel anxious and scared. You may have forgotten how to make small talk or how to strike up a conversation with someone new. Whether you’re heading to a singles event, meeting a Bumble date or just noticed a cute person at the bar, there are several ways to approach the situation that will result in quality conversation.

I pride myself as an expert in conversation. From our newly launched social engagement company, JabberYak, I’ve learned a few things that can help strike up a conversation with someone new.

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When you’re getting to know someone for the first time, you want to show a lot of interest in them and start out on a positive note. The best way to do this is to give a compliment and ask an open-ended question. For example, say something along the lines of, “hey, I love your Suns hat, are you from the area?” The compliment leads you right into a question and from there you can go into each other’s backgrounds and other interests. At JabberYak, our focus is connecting people over common interests using our ice-breaker tools. Once you break the ice and find something you’re both into, you’ll go from small talk to in-depth conversation.

Now that you’ve made that initial connection, it’s ok to admit you’re nervous. After a year of isolating, we’re all out of practice, so odds are the person you’re talking to is nervous as well. Even the most self-assured people worry about their first impressions, but by talking about the elephant in the room, you can ease some of that anxiousness. From then on, if you fumble on a word, accidentally spit when you talk, knock over a glass of water, or do any of those things that would be considered “mortifying” on a first date, you can just chalk it up to those silly old nerves.

Next, embrace the awkwardness. You’ve addressed that you’re nervous and I’m sure your date has as well, but that doesn’t mean the meet-up will be smooth sailing. The key is to not let the awkwardness of the first date deter you, they’re bound to be a bit stiff and uncomfortable. Just because you spent a full minute in silence fiddling with silverware doesn’t mean you aren’t a good fit. Allow each other some grace, be yourself and if you want to know more about the person across from you, plan a second get-together.

Finally, and most importantly, avoid negative self-talk. Self-deprecating humor has a time and place, the first-time meeting someone is not it. While you don’t want to brag about yourself the entire conversation, there’s also no need to point out all your flaws right away. You might think you’re being funny, but there’s a good chance your date sees it as insecure, fishing for compliments, or simply unattractive. Keep things positive and fun, if things go well, odds are there will be plenty of time for them to figure out all your flaws on their own.

Whether you are a corporation, singles group, travel company or arranging any group function, a major hurdle is getting people to interact. Not everyone is outgoing and enjoys crowds. Many people find group functions awkward and intimidating. That’s why JabberYak offers unique ice breaking tools that create a fun atmosphere, ease social interaction, and build relationships by enhancing the level of engagement at work or at social events. JabberYak is the ultimate icebreaker and conversation starter which delivers a fun and memorable experience. For more information on getting JabberYak at your next event, visit


Shideh Doerr is vice president of JabberYak.