August 15, 2019
For many individuals, it’s challenging to begin a conversation with strangers—especially at a networking event. Below are some ideas to help you get started.
People like to talk about themselves. When you ask questions to learn more about them you show you’re engaged, and by picking up on their “tells” (a raised eyebrow, a smile, etc.) you can see how they respond to a question and either continue down that path or change the conversation. And remember, it’s one thing to start the conversation, it takes another skill to keep it going. Always have follow-up questions to expand and enrich the conversation such as:
• Where did you grow up? How did that locale influence you?
• Where do you live now? What led you to move from your hometown?
• Do you have any pets? How did that pet come into your life?
• Do you have any siblings? Which one is most different from you?
• Where did you go to school? What’s the best thing about your college experience?
• Can you recommend any restaurants in the area? What’s your favorite type of food?
• That’s a lovely piece of jewelry. Does it have a story behind it?
Look for something you have in common with the person and ask a related question. Hello, how are you? I’m (insert name).
• Have you been to this event before? What made you come this year?
• When’s the last time you visited this city? Do you have a favorite memory of your previous visit?
• How long have you been a member of this organization? What is the most satisfying aspect of being a member?
• What do you do [in industry/with company]? What led you to this position?
• What was your favorite session so far? What have you heard that made the strongest impression?
• What project are you working on right now? What was your last project? or What’s your next project?
And if all else fails, there’s always the weather…but don’t stop there.
• Do you believe this weather? I bet your favorite season is __. Am I right?
The next time you are at a networking event, and the cat seems to have your tongue, feel free to use some of the above conversation starters to quickly connect with others.