17 great conversation starters for networking events.
17 great conversation starters for networking events.
Walking into a room full of people that you don’t know, and then having to walk up to someone and start a conversation with them can feel scary, intimidating, and make most of us want to just turn around and run the other way. However, it’s actually a lot easier than it seems. Everyone in that room is there to talk to people, to get to know new faces in the industry and promote themselves just as much as you are. So, next time you’re attending a networking event and aren’t sure where to start, try some of these and thank us later. You never know, you may just leave the room having met your potential future boss or client!
What do you do?
Unless you’re about to engage in conversation with a well-known face in your industry (with who you should already know all about what they do!), the perfect place to start is to ask. Ask them what they do, who they work for, what things they do day-to-day, but also what impact their role has for their wider business. Then, tell them exactly the same about yourself. Make sure not to belittle yourself or your role though - this is your chance to really make it clear what a value YOU are.
How did you get into this?
As we all know, and as we have certainly found from all of the incredible career stories we have featured here on GIW - everyone has their own story to tell. So, ask them about theirs. We all love to talk about ourselves, and you’ll be surprised at what interesting facts you can get from one small question. Then, simply take the conversation from there!
Nice! Do you enjoy what you do?
A simple follow on from the above questions is to ask them if they enjoy their job, the industry they're in and their overall role. Obviously, depending on the environment - they may not be completely honest with you and tell you that their boss is a tit and the office is falling apart... BUT, it does give them the opportunity to tell you a little more about their job and the bits that they do enjoy.
What a fantastic space for an event! Have you been here before?
Even if you've never met, spoken to or heard of a person before - you'll still have one thing in common: you're both at the same event. So, use that as your conversation starter and use an observation from the room/space/building you're in to get chatting. If they have been there before, you can also then easily get them talking about their previous experiences, thoughts and learnings from similar events.
Have you had to travel far?
If it's quite a large event, the chances are there'll be people attending from all over the country - and someone is bound to have a story about how their train was cancelled or the traffic was bananas or how actually, they only live round the corner and had a lie in this morning and are now in a fabulous mood!
How did you hear about this event? What's brought you here?
If the event you're attending is informative or a conference style, this is a great way to chat business. Attendees will be there to learn something or to hear opinions on industry news or a particular topic that's relevant to their business plan or an upcoming strategy - ask this question and get talking about what they're hoping to get out of the event!
I'm going to grab another drink/canapé - want to join me?
Food is always a great conversation starter, right? But this one is perfect if you’re trying to grab some one-on-one time with someone who is otherwise engaged in a group. Take them over to the bar/food table and have your chance to discuss exactly what you want.
Oooh, that looks delicious, but I'm not quite sure what it is... do you?
Similarly, if you find yourself browsing the food table next to someone you don’t know, use it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation about the food first… and then get into what you really want to know about them or their business!
I need to grab something to eat later before my train home - do you know anywhere around here that's good?
If you're the one that's travelled to the event from afar, find someone from the hosting company or you know is local to the area, and ask for their knowledge and recommendations! If you think they'd be a real value to you too, take the opportunity to ask if they'd like to join you for dinner or a drink after the event - this will enable you to talk to them prviately and away from everyone else!
I saw that you recently xxxxx on your LinkedIn...
If you already know who’s on the guest list before you attend an event, have a little browse through their LinkedIn or any professional blogs or websites they may have. Whether it’s a recent promotion, award or career achievement, it’s the perfect talking point and shows that you’re genuinely interested in them and what they do.
I found that last presentation to be really insightful. What did you think?
Again, if you've both just watched the same presentation or listened to the same speaker - you've instantly got something in common. Ask them what they thought and provide your own analysis, insight and interpretations. The conversation should then flow from there!
I believe you know (insert mutual acquaintances name) - I thought I'd pop over and say hello!
Mutual connections are a great way to start a conversation with someone in the room. Similar to above, a little LinkedIn research before an event can really help give you these little gems to kickstart an interaction with someone. Ask them how they know your colleage or friend, and then steer the conversation into asking about them, and then - as always, tell them about yourself!
Hi, I don't think we've met before! I'm (insert name) - which company do you work for?
Simple, traditional... and probably for when you're feeling brave enough to walk up to someone and just introduce yourself. You never know, they may be secretly impressed at your confidence and want to get to know a little more about you, too. Follow up with the 'what do you do' question and you're away!
I just had to come over and tell you how much I adore your shoes! Would you mind me asking where you got them from?
We all love a compliment, and what better way to start a conversation than to tell them you love their shoes. Before you know it, you'll go from their envious stilletos to their recent career move. Whatever it is, a compliment can go a long way into converting a stranger into a valuable contact.
You don't happen to know the wifi password, do you?
If it's a professional networking event - particularly if it's an all day one - there'll be lots of people still trying to check in with their teams back at the office or checking their emails. That, and we all love a good scroll through Twitter at the breaks, right? It's totally normal now for you to ask for the wifi password without anyone batting an eyelid - so if you see someone on their phone or laptop, go up to them and ask for the wifi to get the conversation flowing.
This weather is grim/gorgeous, isn't it?
I mean, we are British after all...
I really hate networking, don't you?
And finally, if all else fails, there's nothing like a bit of humour to break the ice. If you see someone standing in the corner or on the edge of the circle, go over to them and tell them you know exactly how they feel!