Conversation Starters for Networking – #20061

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Conversation Starters for Networking – #20061

Conversation StartersWhen you attend a networking event such as a conference, trade show, panel discussion, or lecture, do you feel uncomfortable starting conversations with the strangers around you? It's not an easy thing to do, but talking to people is an important business skill. Meeting new people and making connections helps you grow your personal and professional network. A bigger network means more business opportunities.

Below are four examples of conversation starters from REAL conversations at a recent networking event. The conversations weren't long, but they were meaningful. Each conversation ended with an exchange of business cards and hopes of a continued business relationship.

Conversation Starter 1: Ask to share a table

Walk up to someone sitting at a table and ask if you can sit next to him or her. This works every time--unless the seat is being saved. If the seat is not available, just find another table. You might say: Do you mind if I join you? (If they answer no, that means you CAN sit there. They mean, No, I don't mind.)

Conversation Starter 2: Ask if it's the person's first time at the event

When you're standing near someone and he isn't talking to anyone, ask him if he's ever been to this kind of event, if he's ever heard the speaker, or if he's ever been to the event space before. You might say: Have you been to this conference before?

Conversation Starter 3: Ask if the person is a member of the organization

If you find out that you are both members of the organization, you will have found something that you have in common. You can talk about past events. If the person you are talking to is a member and you are not, you can ask about the benefits of being a member. You might say: Are you a member of (name of organization)?

Conversation Starter 4: Comment on the food or drink

Walk up to someone near the food or drink line and make a comment. At a recent event, one person said, I don't think I should drink coffee at 9 PM. The other person replied, It's good coffee. You should try the decaf. This small talk led to an interesting conversation about staying awake at night, reading, and then about books and authors. You might say: This food looks really great.

The goal of conversation starters is to "break the ice" by creating a reason or opportunity to have a conversation. Use the situation creatively, and try to find a non-threatening way to start the conversation.

starting conversations at networking eventsPRACTICE

Here is a list of more conversation starters you can try:

  • The food looks really great.
  • Wow, it’s really raining out there.
  • What a nice day!
  • Have you ever seen this man speak before? (Start a conversation with the person you’re standing or sitting next to.)
  • Have you been to this trade show before? (Ask for advice if you’ve never been to the show.)
  • The speaker is really good, isn’t he? (Comment on an experience that you are sharing.)
  • I’ll move these for you. (If you’re sitting at an empty table, give someone a reason to sit next to you.)
  • Can I help you with that? (Offer to help someone struggling with a chair, door, etc. and then begin a conversation.)
  • Do you know what time the keynote starts? (Ask about event details.)
  • How's the coffee? (Ask about the coffee when standing near the refreshment area and speaking to someone already drinking a cup.)

Do you have other suggestions for starting conversations at networking events? Post a comment below.

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