Conversation Starters (Issue 1030)

In which we are encouraged while networking or going about our daily tasks,  to wear something that stands out, breaks the ice, and starts conversation.  (Offered with apologies to my Michigan State friends.)

“Go, Blue!”

I was standing with my family, resting for a moment, on a trail above Ollantaytambo, a village in the Sacred Valley in southern Peru. We’d passed only a few other people that morning. A couple of others, hiking past us as we rested,  spotted  my deeply-faded University of Michigan blue baseball cap and responded enthusiastically, “Go, Blue”.

“Go, Blue! Thank you!” I replied, smiling and waving back.

Wearing that hat and its less faded successors, I’ve heard “Go, Blue” called toward me as I’ve  walked across through Boston neighborhoods, in the aisles at Trader Joe’s, and  through airports both in the USA and abroad.

After calling out, “Go, Blue,” sometimes the passer-by will ask about my connection to the University and I’ll say I’m a distant admirer and ask about their connection. [My long-dead father probably rolls over in his grave every time this happens. He was an Iowa guy from way back. He professed to HATE the University of Michigan!]

So, Although I’ve no connection to the University of Michigan (I picked the hat because I liked the blue color and the maze yellow “M” on the front for “Miller”), I’ve heard many stories from proud alumni and friends. Over time it’s become fun, actually. Impromptu conversations have been a happy and unintended consequence of a hat choice.

Back in a time when we were all meeting in person, during a training session for branch managers and small business bankers, I shifted the focus from typical networking to “attraction marketing” – attracting prospects to us rather than stalking and chasing them.

Feeling a little frisky, I asked, “Remember when you were dating? What strategies did you use to attract people to you?” Virtually all eyes in the room went straight to the floor. Silence. A few sheepish side glances. More silence. And then a guy spoke up from the back of the room.

“I’ll tell you how I met my wife,” he said. “I went to a party one night. I wore a white Panama fedora hat at an angle like this….” And with his hands he showed us the rakish angle of his hat. “She came up to me and said ‘nice hat,’ and we started talking.”

More silence. Someone else spoke: “I bought a shirt with a funny saying on it and I wore it to a party. I wasn’t there 2 minutes before another guest said, ‘Hey, I like your shirt.’ It was impossible to not read the words. I drew more attention than people wearing regular shirts.”

So, maybe you’re thinking these are dumb stories….two hats and a shirt… and you could be right. Yet, they started conversations with complete strangers.

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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