When it comes to conversation, you’re a natural. You can chat up a storm with just about anyone, you’re a pro at listening, and you love meeting and connecting with new people.
But when it comes to starting that networking conversation? That’s a different story.
This is one of the most common concerns we hear about networking: How do you just walk up to someone you don’t know at an event—and start talking?
Well, it’s a tad easier than it sounds. Fact is, no one’s going to turn you away if you walk up, smile, and say, “I’m so-and-so. Nice to meet you.” In fact, others will probably be relieved that someone else started the conversation!
But, the process is definitely a lot easier when you have a few go-to icebreakers in your back pocket. So, we’ve put together a handy list to refer to before your next event—some of our own lines, a few favorites from our career expert friends, and icebreakers our Twitter and Facebook followers have used, too!
When in doubt, just try the basics: asking what someone does, inquiring why he or she is at the event, or even just reaching out your hand and saying hi.
- 1. “What’s your favorite conversation starter at a networking event?” – Connie B.
- 2. “So, what do you do?” It gets them talking first and you can think about how to approach the conversation or how you could possibly work together. – @GrowSouthwest
- 3. “So, what brought you here today?” – @twofacedhrlady
- 4. “Hi there! I’m Michelle. What are you passionate about?” – Michelle E.
- 5. “What’s your story?” It always sparks a fascinating and non-generic conversation. – @leslieforman
Location, Location, Location
No matter what, you’ve got at least a couple things in common with every person in the room: the event you’re attending, the place it’s being held at, and the food and drink you’re consuming. Use that to your advantage by striking up conversation about what’s going on around you.
- 6. If I’m at an event with food, I’ll often use that as a conversation starter, à la “I can’t stop eating these meatballs. Have you tried them?” – @erinaceously
- 7. “How did you hear about this event?” – @myuliyam
- 8. “It’s so hot (or cold) in here.” Hey, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but the person will either agree or disagree, and pretty soon you’re talking about weather patterns, your best umbrella, and then your career goals. – Jessica Gordon for The Muse
- 9. “I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the deluge of info that’s being firehosed at us today. Is there one nugget of brilliance that’s really resonating with you?” – Alexandra Franzen
- 10. “What a beautiful venue. Have you been here before?”
Another thing you have in common with, well, everyone? What happened in your city or the world today. While you don’t want to start up any hot political debates, some light-hearted headline sharing is a great way to break the ice.
- 11.“What do you think about [insert topic germane to the event or person here]?” I’m biased: News is a great engagement tool. – @thatsportsgirl
- 12. “Wow, I just can’t believe all the crazy news headlines today. What a week!”
- 13. “Any chance you read the news today? I missed it, and I’m dying to know what’s happening with [insert news topic here].”
- 14. “So, was it a pain for you to get here?” The mode of transportation and location in the city are always on peoples’ minds. There’s bound to be a story about it. – Jessica Gordon for The Muse
- 15. “Did you catch the game last night?” It’s a classic, but it’s a classic for a reason
If you’re an introvert, walking into a room full of unknown people can feel extra intimidating. One of our favorite approaches is to look toward the outskirts of the room and find someone who looks a little lonely. Maybe that woman sitting by herself at the table doesn’t know anyone and is just hoping that someone will come talk to her. Be that person, and try one of these lines.
Continue on to The Muse to read the complete article.