Do you like going to networking events?
If I’m in the right frame of mind, I don’t mind them. Feeling outgoing, in a good mood, have a sense of purpose at the event, that sort of thing.
If I’m not in that frame of mind, I go to my conversation starters. They help me get a conversation going even when all I want to do is get the hell out of there.
Here are some of the conversation starters I’ve tried that worked well.
- Have you guys found a place to put your coats, or are we just holding on to them?
Plays on the confusion that occurs when you first get to an event. No one has any idea what they’re doing, but the ones that do love the chance to let everyone know they’re “in the know.”
- You guys look like you’re having the most fun, mind if I join this conversation?
Just make sure that they look like they’re having a good time.
- Have you guys been having any trouble with the Wi-Fi?
The answer is almost always “yes.”
- That _____ looks great. What is it?
Whether it’s a food or a beverage, this question can offer a few different answers, a description, a comment on the quality, or where they got it.
- Are you from Denver?
Or Kansas City, or Minnesota, or St. Louis. Whatever city or state their attire and accessories are sporting.
- Mind if I squeeze in and share this table?
Unless one of them is Gretchen Weiners, no one is going to scream that YOU CAN’T SIT WITH THEM!
- Do you know anyone else here or are you flying solo?
Your circle will expand if they know people. If they don’t, you generate some empathy as a fellow lone wolf.
- Know anywhere I can get some good food or drinks in the area?
If they’re a local, they’ll most like start rattling off about their favorite spots. If not, you both can talk about the recommendations you’ve each heard.
- Did you hear _____ speak?
Being at the same event, the sessions and speakers are some of the only guaranteed common ground. It’s a great starting point that can go in a lot of different conversational directions.
- Are you here to meet or see anyone in particular?
If you’re both there to see the same people or attend the same sessions, this question will help you establish that common ground. If not, you get to learn more about each other’s goals.
- Did you all come here together, or did you meet here?
This opens up the conversation to the entire group. The more people chatting the better.
- Since we’ve got some time to kill, I just wanted to introduce myself.
This works great when you’re waiting in line for a keynote, the bathroom, food, etc.
- How are you guys getting to the next event? Want to share a cab?
Start with the first part of the question — but offer up a ride share if the group doesn’t really have a plan.
- Are you or anyone at your company speaking at this event?
Be sure to have a quick follow-up if the answer is “no” — like asking about which sessions they plan on attending.
- Is this your first time at this event?
Old-timers will be happy to share some insider tips, and first-timers can empathize with you.
- Did you understand X from Y session today?
Ask someone who was in a common session or talk to explain something to you if you want to do a little ego stroking while you network.
- Alright, I got an awesome marketing joke for you.
Make sure you actually have a marketing joke. Here’s one, “Why did the marketer get off the trampoline? He was worried about his bounce rate”. Come on, you know it’s funny. Okay, one more, “Why can’t a lead date a religious marketer? Because she’ll always be trying to convert him”. Wow, tough crowd.
- Did you catch any good sessions today?
This helps reveal people’s interests. It’s way easier to keep a conversation going if you know a little bit about the person.
- I’m tired of talking to my colleagues, I see them all the time. What are you guys talking about?
I like it because it’s probably true, and shows an interest in getting to know new people.
- Hi, I’m _____.
It actually works. Make sure you have a follow-up so you’re not just staring at each other in silence.
The key to all of these conversation starters is being ready with a follow-up. This is just your “in” to the conversation. Be prepared to keep the conversation going and take it to the next level.
Do you have any to share? Leave your comments below.
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