Megaphone with two speech bubbles coming out of it. Representing having a business networking conversation

5 Interesting Conversation Starters for Your Next Networking Event

When you attend a networking event, it’s hard to avoid having the same conversations over and over again. “What do you do? Where do you work? Do you know so-and-so?” It can get pretty monotonous having these surface level conversations all the time.

Of course, you have to introduce yourself and get the other person’s name. But after that the world is your oyster. Here are some conversation starters to spice up your networking.

1. Lead with a compliment

“Wow, I love that jacket! Cool shoes. New haircut? Looks good.”

People LOVE to be complimented, especially when it’s a compliment about something they’ve explicitly decided and acted upon; it’s almost like you’re reinforcing their choice.

Professional compliments are also a great way to start the conversation – for example, if you’ve seen their business in the news recently, or heard great things from one of your connections.

You can learn a lot about someone by how they react to a compliment. Often a compliment will begin a pleasant conversation about the thing you complimented. When you read deeper into this conversation you can learn a lot about the person. You can learn about their shopping habits, their reactions show their personal and professional etiquette, and whether they recommend someone or something shows how willing they are to give referrals.

You can continue this conversation by asking follow-up questions or segueing into another topic.

Compliments also make the receiver feel good and boost their confidence. What better way to start a conversation and networking relationship!

2. Dig Deeper

Once you’ve got past the pleasantries of name and occupation, it’s time to dig a little deeper.

Asking open ended questions helps you to get to know people better and helps to start building those close, trust-based relationships.

Some examples include:

  • How did you get into this industry?
  • Why did you get into this industry?
  • What do you enjoy the most about this industry?
  • What’s the most interesting part of your day-to-day?
  • What are some of the services you offer?

Asking these kinds of questions gets people into their comfort zone, as people are used to talking about their industries and often enjoy talking about themselves, especially in a work scenario. It also makes you appear more interested in them and their industry, even if you’re just filling in time.

Having these conversations requires you to listen and show genuine attention to what they’re saying, so you can ask follow-up questions or share relevant stories of your own. Doing so will continue to deepen your relationship – and you might even learn something!

3. Current events

Keeping up to date on current news or events can definitely help you to have engaging conversations, especially when you ask for the other person’s opinion on the topic.

For example, when talking to financial advisors, you can ask their opinions on how changes to the OCR will affect the interest rates and therefore the investment or housing market.

Marketers will give you some interesting opinions and ideas around changes to the different social media algorithms.

NOTE: We recommend staying away from polarising news and events. Subjects like politics, religion, or other social issues can sometimes move from conversation to debating and arguments. Probably not the best things to be doing with someone you’ve just met.

4. Ask for advice

During your conversation, if a topic comes up that you’d like to learn more about, feel free to ask for advice. People like to help others and appreciate others asking their opinion. You can ask how they manage their time, how they deal with their bosses, how they juggle working from home with kids, or even how they’d recommend going about getting into their industry.

It could even be something as simple as “I’m new to town, where is your favourite restaurant?”

Everyone has a story to tell and advice to give. There’s bound to be something you can learn from every conversation, regardless of who you’re chatting to and how different their industry is to yours.

5. Tell a Joke

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people” – Victor Borge

Another great way to start a conversation is to tell a joke. Shared laughter is a great way to create a strong bond with others. Studies have shown that when people laugh together, they feel more similarity with the others and in turn like them more, and laughter “momentarily boosts their sense of connection”.

Make sure your joke is relevant and appropriate to the situation. It’s not recommended to be making raunchy or controversial jokes when you first meet a someone at a networking event.

Keeping the conversation going

Now that you’ve started the conversation, you need to keep it going. Here are some tips:

Be Genuinely Interested – Focus on the person that you’re talking to and show that you’re interested in what they’re talking about. You never know when you’ll be able to use the information you learn from a conversation.

Active Listening – Communication is a two-way street, and listening is just as important as talking.

Ask Questions – To make sure you understand their points, ask open ended questions. It’s a great way to continue the flow of conversation.

Find Common Ground – When getting to know someone, it’s great to figure out points of connection. Whether it’s a shared connection, place, or experience, it makes it easier to have an engaging conversation.

Finish it Up

Once you’re done with the conversation, make sure to thank the other person for their time. Don’t forget to grab a couple of their business cards and give them yours. That way you can keep the conversation going outside of the networking event.

Feel free to use any of these conversation starters when you attend your next networking event!

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