30 Brilliant Networking Conversation Starters
Networking events are great but not for everyone. You may have been excited at the thought of attending one, only to find yourself standing awkwardly alone when everyone else is talking to someone. Or probably you skipped the event because you are not a good conversationalist.
Don’t worry though, this article will help you curb your fears by showing you how to approach a stranger and start a conversation.
Below are 30 brilliant networking conversation starters that will help you deal with the situation. Just use one that sounds or feels appropriate and off you go. Remember to loosen up a bit and don’t be too formal. Keep the conversation simple since you are just building a connection.
1. “That’s a nice suit you are wearing. Where did you get it from?”
Compliments always work well. And the best part? They shift the attention from you to the other person. This is very helpful if you are feeling anxious about starting a conversation. From the response you get, it will then be a lot easier to keep the conversation going.
2. “Hi, I’m Ryan and I [What you do].”
Say this with an outstretched arm as a way of inviting the person into a conversation. Always remember to have a smile on your face and make eye contact. In shaking their hand, make it firm but brief.
This opening line is short and on point, making it clear that you want to get into a conversation. Pick on what the other person tells you and drive the conversation further. Do not overthink it. You can simply ask what their career is like, what a typical day for him is like etc.
3. “Do you have any networking tips for an introvert?”
If you are an introvert and struggle even with the thought of approaching a stranger, this one is for you. Just pose as an introvert who is seeking some help. Don’t worry about what the person might think. Focus on your goal—to start a conversation. If asked, readily acknowledge that you are an introvert.
In case the person shows sympathy for introverts, take the opportunity to talk about the strengths of being an introvert. This will quickly open up the space for a great conversation. You can also gently steer the conversation back to them by asking their personality, especially now that they know yours.
4. “What do you like most about this event so far?”
Ask anyone this question and they will likely give you several sentences as a response. If they give you one of those short ones, just ask them what it is they like about what they mentioned. This gives them a chance to explain their thoughts and helps you have something to respond to.
Still, if the response is short, you can also tell them what you liked and ask them whether they noticed it. For example, you could say, “I liked the subtle humor which the speaker used in his speech. Did you notice it?” Proceed to give examples of the humorous statements you noticed.
5. “Hi, do you work at [a certain company]?”
You don’t have to have seen them at that company in order to ask this question. You are simply starting a conversation. With a high probability of getting a “No” for an answer, just tell them they looked like someone working for that company.
For this to be received well, use a company that has a good reputation or is highly successful. For example, you could respond by saying, “you appear to me like someone who could be a strategist in a big company.” You can then proceed to ask them where they work and pick up from there.
6. “How did you hear about this event?”
This is a classic one which can never fade. No single event is advertised through only one media channel. It may have been on social media, on TV or just a friend mentioning it. Prepare an interesting response as to how you heard about it but don’t struggle to be funny.
You could for example say, “I heard someone invite his friend over the phone and since he sounded excited, I extended the invitation to myself.” Alternatively, mention any of the ways through which the event was advertized.
7. “Have you been here before?”
Approach someone with this question and if they say a plain “No,” just add something like “Neither have I, but I find it to be a great place to hold an event.” You can then describe one of the things you have noticed about the building or the event’s setup. This will prompt the other person to respond with something they have noticed themselves.
8. “It’s so crowded in here. There must be a million people in this room.”
Obviously, there can’t be a million people in the room but the idea gets home anyway. This will move the other person see things from your perspective. In so doing, you will have attracted him to your line of thought. You can then continue with “I can barely move with ease.”
Ensure that the place is quite filled with people so that you don’t come across as someone making an out-of-place comment just to start a conversation.
9. “That was quite a speech. What is the one thing you got out of it?”
If the interaction session starts after a keynote speech, use it to start a conversation. There will most likely be more than one thing someone picked as important to him. Listen to him and agree with him on its importance then share something you found valuable.
If you noticed anything outside the main speech that stood out for you, like the amount of research the speaker quoted, you can also raise it for discussion. Just focus on the positive and don’t talk about anything negative, unless it was so obvious that everyone noticed it.
10. “I love the salad. Have you tried it?”
Comments about food will always start a good conversation. This is because people will either describe things differently from you or expound on your simple comment. They might even tell you about a recipe they use to make something similar or a restaurant they know which makes it well.
All these are hints you can follow to keep the conversation going and soon enough, you will be talking about anything.
11. “How often do you attend networking events?”
This question implies that you have something you want to say about the event you are attending but would rather hear the other person’s thoughts first. Depending on the kind of person they are, they may respond cautiously awaiting to hear what you have to say.
You can tell them whether you have attended any or that is your first one. Still, for the expectation you have built, make an observation that will start a conversation. You could say “This is my first one and I am quite amazed at how people are engaging with one another.”
12. “Was it easy for you to find this place?”
If you had a challenge finding the venue, probably because you are new in the area, you can use your experience to get a conversation started. By posing the question, you give them an opportunity to tell you their experience first. If there was traffic, then they have a story, even if a short one, to share with you.
In case they got there easily, then share your experience of how you had to drive several streets past the venue and even made some wrong turns while searching for the place. You can finish your story by commenting on the state of traffic in general and how much productivity is lost in traffic.
Since everyone experiences traffic, this is a common subject around which to start a conversation.
13. “Have you been at the exhibition stands?”
If the event features exhibitions for businesses to showcase their products, you can use that to start the conversation. If they haven’t, you can invite them to accompany you as you head there. If they have, ask them which products stood out for them.
If the conversation continues well, keep going with it. If asked whether you are still interested in checking out the exhibition, you can tell them you have already gotten enough information from them. Alternatively, you can mention that the time you spent talking bore much fruit that you don’t mind not going there anyway.
14. “Hi, I see that you work at [company where they work]. What is it like working there?”
For this to work, you must have knowledge of where they work. If the person is wearing a name tag and you managed to see the name of the company, then this is a good starting point. As they talk, show genuine interest and ask questions to prompt them to tell you more.
You can interject with questions which express more interest or comments which show you have had a similar experience as the one they are talking about.
15. “Wow, the food looks good…I’m not sure what to have. What will you have?”
The line at the buffet table is another great place to have a conversation going. Instead of lining up for food silent, ask this question to invite the person in front of you into a conversation. He is likely to agree with you on the food and probably offer some suggestions based on what he has decided to have.
Still, he may not have decided on what to have thus creating room for an open conversation. It will be easier to continue with the conversation once you have helped each other decide on what to eat.
16. “Did you catch the game last night?”
Talking sports is another sure way of starting a conversation. This works well especially if you are a fan, otherwise you could end up with little to share. The same situation can also occur if the other person isn’t a fan of the sport you are referring to. That is not to mean you cannot still have a conversation.
Ask them about what sport they love. If they are not fans of any sport, then find out what fun activities they engage in. You will get something from their response on which to build a conversation.
17. “This is such a great venue for a networking event. Have you been here before?”
The environment in which you are provides many ideas for starting a conversation. You can pick on any of the features of the building or its environment and talk about it. If the room is big and well planned for all kinds of services, then talk about it.
You can also mention other venues you have been to which compare well to the one you are in.
18. “You guys seem to be having a good time. Do you mind if I joined you?”
This will help you join a group of people who are talking together. Despite having a hard time starting a conversation, this offers you a chance to join a conversation which is already going on. Moreover, with three or more people, there is less attention going to one individual, offering safety for you.
This will probably be the best way for you to develop the much-needed confidence. The group interaction will be easy on you as there will be several people speaking. You can easily give approvals for what has been said or add something small or ask a follow up question to keep the conversation going.
19. “So, what do you do?”
Since networking is all about connecting with other people, this is a direct approach that will keep things rolling along the real purpose of the event. Going straight into business, you will build a connection knowing the industry the other person works in. From here, you will know how you can add value to each other.
Watch this video and learn how to answer this question if someone poses it to you. The last thing you want to do is attend a networking event unprepared.
20. “Hi, are you a [the profession you think they are in]?”
This starts as a compliment and goes straight into business. The only thing you need to do is ensure you start off well. Do not exaggerate or use informal language which the person may not understand. To get a clue of what they may be doing, check their dressing.
Although some events may indirectly dictate the dressing if they are held in certain places, someone’s attire can offer a hint about his profession or lifestyle. Their conduct can also give you ideas. For example, people in the art industry usually sport casual styles as opposed to those who work in offices.
Similarly, people working in the sales and PR departments tend to be more outgoing than others. Being correct is however not the most important thing here. Starting a conversation is.
21. “Did you attend last year’s event?”
Approaching someone with this question tells them there is a comparison you are about to make and they will be open to hear it. In case you were not at the event, just tell them you wanted to know how it was considering how good the current one is.
In case you were present, mention some positive things that featured in last year’s event and be open to their questions and thoughts.
22. “What are the three tips you would give an entrepreneur on business strategy?”
You can twist this question so that it lines up with the subject discussed by the speaker. This provides a common ground on which both of you can freely interact and exchange thoughts.
23. “Can I get you another drink?”
Of course this will only work if the person you are approaching has an empty or nearly-empty glass. You can then get them another drink from the bar. If the venue has attendants serving the attendees, you can signal one of them for the order.
You can continue to mention how you like the wine being served. As long as the conversation is started, there will be much more to talk about.
24. “Hi, can I borrow your pen?”
If you have your diary with you, you can borrow a pen and scribble something in it. Though not everyone may be walking around with a pen, you can safely assume that anyone with a notebook or diary possibly has one.
If the person you approached doesn’t have one, you can approach someone else and pick a conversation with them. The ice is already broken and the conversation can flow.
25. “I bet you are as excited about this event as I am.”
Before making this statement, make sure you are excited. And more so, it has to be evident on your face. This will show the sincerity of your conversation starter. In your excitement, have two or three items ready to point out that make the event exciting.
Being a social event, despite any formal dressing and setup, the other person will respond accordingly and share what they think of the event.
26. “Do you mind if I joined you?”
If you spot someone seated or standing somewhere alone, approach them and request to join their company. They will most likely appreciate your interest. If the place they are is quieter than the rest of the room, mention it as something you would like to enjoy. Proceed to ask whether they are enjoying the same thing.
27. “I knew I would meet a loner like me in this place.”
This is an interesting one because you are not sure whether the person is a loner. At the same time, you have made yourself vulnerable by indicating that you are a loner. But that’s exactly why this one will work so well. Ensure the person you are telling this is alone at the time you approach them.
If the person is indeed a loner, you will have guessed right. And since you said you are also a loner, you will have struck a chord with them. It will be easy for two loners to talk together. You can even encourage them with some conversation starters then meet later to share your experiences.
If it happens that the person is not a loner, then you can offer yourself to learn how to become like them. Ask them directly how they manage to interact easily and before you know it, you are talking.
28. “I couldn’t help noticing your deep voice. Do you sing?”
Take note that this is more appropriate for use on men. It is also a good thing to tell it to someone you noticed had a deep voice. Compliments will always land you on the soft side of people. Whether you get a “Yes” or a “No” for an answer, you will not struggle to build the conversation from that point.
For example, if they sing, you can ask for sample songs and offer to buy an album. If they don’t, you can ask why and make suggestions to encourage them to sing since they have a great voice.
29. “I can’t imagine having missed this networking event.”
This is a great way of showing that you are enjoying the event and it’s turning out exactly the way you hoped. The person you are directing it to will be feeling the same or otherwise. Whichever way, you two now have somewhere to pick the conversation from.
30. “Hi, are you in [the department you work in]? I am hoping to meet a few fellow [people working in that department].”
You can use this to make your profession known while waiting to know the other person’s. Be ready to show interest in their profession if it’s different from yours. In any case, isn’t starting a conversation what you really wanted?
Have these networking conversation starters given you some ideas on how to benefit from the next networking event? Use them and say goodbye to those awkwardly silent moments.