Even if you already have some experience with cam chat, it can still be tricky to get those conversations going. You never know if the other person already has something in mind, or what kinds of interactions they prefer. A straightforward “let’s talk about such-and-such” approach doesn’t take much forethought, but it lacks charisma.
If you want to have conversations that are entertaining for both of you, maybe it’s time to do a little research. You might realize that your technique has been missing something all along; or, you could pick up a few things to add onto your already solid strategy.
Even better, you could use these as a starting point for further innovation. The suggestions below cover a lot of ground, but they definitely aren’t comprehensive. Come up with your own ideas! It never hurts to have more variety, and you’ll be adding your own personal brand of creativity to your chats.
Begin with the basics
To start with, let’s take a look at the big picture. From the other person’s perspective, you’re a moving image on their screen that’s accompanied by sound. What does that image look like? Do they feel like they’re peering into someone’s basement, or are they being blinded by a bright but poorly chosen shirt? You might feel like you’re presentable, but your webcam could have different ideas. With a little manipulation of clothes, background, and light source, you could look a hundred times better.
Even if you can’t get things looking quite right, a simple greeting goes a long way. Just telling someone your name immediately establishes a rapport between you, so make sure you do that before jumping into the conversation.
Suggest a game
Everybody likes games, right? Maybe not quite everybody, but your chances of finding willing players are pretty good. There are some obvious limitations – for instance, you couldn’t play a game like Twister, and you can’t rely on someone else to have the same board games as you – but you still have plenty of options that will work over video chat.
Go for games like “two truths and a lie”, or “truth or dare”. They don’t require any setup, or any knowledge of a certain subject (like trivia, for instance). You’ll also get to know a bit more about the person you’re video chatting with through their answers, and vice versa.
You could suggest a challenge, like telling jokes while the other person tries to keep a straight face. It could be anything, as long as it isn’t dangerous or too revealing of personal information.
Show a recently completed project
Whether it’s a sketch, a new accessory for your pet, or anything else that can be shown over a webcam, tell someone about it – they’ll probably love the idea! You can tell them about your inspiration for the project, how you did it, and who it’s for. They might even have something of their own to show you.
Going beyond show-and-tell, you might end up exchanging tips and techniques so the other person can make their own version of the project. Or, you could be the person who’s a little envious of how someone else’s handiwork turned out – ask them about the process, materials, and any other information you’d need to replicate it for yourself.
Introduce yourself as a fictional character
If introducing yourself is getting a little old, start introducing yourself as someone else! Plenty of people already have cosplay costumes, Halloween costumes, or some hand-picked pieces that are a little to off-the-wall for everyday use. Develop a character and interact as someone else – chances are, people will have fun playing along.
If you get lucky, you might meet some people who have their own characters ready to go. You can connect through the lives of your characters, share their background stories, and admire each other’s costumes. You might even get some ideas for your next character!
Ask fun questions
Nothing breaks the ice like a silly question. Do you want to keep it hypothetical? Try asking what their superpower would be if they could choose one, or what they would do if they could rule the world. If you wanted to stay in the real world, you could ask about the most useless item they’ve ever bought, or their guilty-pleasure song or artist.
Pretty much any kind of question works. Find a Texan and ask them what kind of woodsmoke is best for BBQ – you might get a longer answer than you bargained for. Ask someone what they think about the pineapple-on-pizza debate, and why they chose that particular position.
In the interests of keeping the peace, it’s best to avoid questions about religion, politics, or other potentially inflammatory subjects. Also, make sure your questions respect the privacy of other video chat users.
Offer your services as an organization buddy
This tongue-in-cheek offer could be just the motivation someone needed to clean out that drawer, closet, or shelf. You could make suggestions on how to rearrange things, admire their wardrobe choices, or maybe give them a little tough love if they’re holding onto stuff that should have been dumped a long time ago.
It could even be a team project – they might be more willing to do it if you’re doing it too. Pick something that’s already visible from where the webcam is set up, and that doesn’t reveal any personal details (like a pile of mail you need to go through, for instance – you don’t want anybody to leak their address). You could discover each other’s styles, what you enjoy collecting, and more as you organize your respective spaces.
It’s never too late to improve your video chatting strategy!
Hopefully your brain is now swimming with ideas that you can try out next time you video chat. Not only will you avoid those initial awkward pauses, but you’ll start having fun almost immediately. Mix and match, or invent your own – with random video chats, there’s always room for improvisation!