Navigating Networking: Ready-Set-Speak

Easy Conversation Starters
You are at a dinner party, school event, networking social, conference or other setting where you want to meet new people. But the idea of starting up a conversation with a stranger makes you want to hide out in the bathroom… even longer. Don’t end the conversation before it has begun; there are a lot of ways to get the conversation going. In my experience, questions are a fool-proof way to spark an interesting conversation with someone new.

The two key ingredients to remember when starting a conversation with a question are:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. To get someone talking, ask something that requires more than a one or two word response. What, How, How come, Why- all of these question starters encourage a more in-depth response. “Do you…” on the other hand, usually leads to no more than a yes or no answer.
  2. Be curious. What would you like to know about the person? (It will be obvious if you are not interested in the conversation.) If you are meeting a complete stranger, ask about general topics like hobbies, sports interests, favorite family or adventure vacation spots. If you have a little background on the person, start from there. Ask what it was like to lead the project that turned into their company’s biggest revenue source of the year. Or maybe you heard they are a racquetball champion.

The key is to select a topic that you are both interested in and comfortable discussing. Here are a few of my favorites. (Psst… Chapter 5 of The 11 Laws of Likability offers a complete list of tried-and-true conversation starters.) Choose your favorites and share with me on twitter or Facebook how it went.

Make A Generic/Personal Inquiry

  • “What do you do?” / “What do you do when you are not working?”
  • “What field are you in?”
  • “What do you think of this ________ (stormy, unseasonably warm, freezing cold, fill-in-the-blank) weather? “
  • “Do you have kids?”
  • “Are you in school?”

Seek Advice

  • “Can you tell me how to get to…?”
  • “Which break-out session, course, restaurant, hotel, or (fill in the blank) do you suggest?”

Compliment –

  • “I love your shirt/tie/scarf/jacket/necklace. Where did you get it?”
  • “I thought the question you asked during the panel discussion was really interesting. What did you think of the panelist’s response?”

Now that you know how to start the conversation, I’ll be tackling a bigger topic in the next post– ‘How to Enter a Group Conversation.’ It’s not as stressful as you think – I promise. See you next week!

4 thoughts on “Navigating Networking: Ready-Set-Speak

  1. Pingback: Demystifying Networking: 3 Networks You Already Have, and How to Leverage Them | Every Veteran HiredEvery Veteran Hired

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