How to Start a Conversation When Networking

how to start a conversation

Knowing what to say is a big part of being successful at a networking event. Opening lines are important conversation starters. But that’s just one way to start an interesting conversation with a stranger. Here’s everything that you need to know that leads to a business connection.

Why Conversation Starters are so Important

An effective conversation starter establishes common ground with that other person. This is small talk that can lead to more B2B networking for you. If done right, a conversation can generate genuine interest in what you’ve got to sell.

The right conversation starters are sales techniques.

Tips for Starting a Conversation at Networking Events

But you need to know how to start a conversation at one of these events. Following are 7 things that will lead to a good first impression.

The Right Body Language Leads to a Conversation

Non verbal cues foster an engaging conversation. Research suggests stance is essential. Dont slouch. You’ll look tentative. Body language compliments your conversation.

Proximity is important for good conversations. You need to be close enough to talk but not crowd.

Finding Common Ground

Getting over that first awkward silence is easier with some small talk. Talk shop with the other person to get started in your conversation.

Maintain Eye Contact For Great Conversations

An important part of any engaging conversation. If you maintain eye contact, it shows genuine interest. An important physical conversation starter.

Asking Follow Up Questions

Establish meaningful connections with great conversation starters. Then a further conversation includes follow up questions. Ask the other person about their experience and background.

An excellent conversation begins with mutual interest in each other.

Steering Clear of Conversations on Conversational Topics

Avoid a bad conversation starter. Like these topics that foster social anxiety.

  • current events.
  • politics
  • complaints about work

Generally don’t talk about things you don’t like. Not a good way to jump into a conversation. Don’t jump in with deep topics right away. Leave those peer reviewed studies alone at first.

Ways to Start a Conversation at Face to Face Networking Events

It makes sense to focus on the best conversation starters instead. Following are 8 ways to start a great conversation when you’re face to face.

1 Introduce Yourself

This is a great conversation opener. The easiest way to get another person talking is to have a quick description ready. This is the beginning of a normal conversation.

Hi, I’m so and so. I’m from Chicago and my company is ACNE widgets.

2. Go For A Walk

Deep conversations start when people walk together. Especially on the way to the next panel or discussion. This is a great way to get to know the other person.

I’m on my way to the noon panel. Care to join me?

Comment on the decor on the way. It’s another way to start a conversation.

3. Mention A Favorite Food

You’ll have one thing in common with every other party at an event. The food. It can make for excellent conversation.

Have you tried these sandwiches? They’re delicious.

Start a conversation on your other favorites.

4. Share a Light Headline

A few tips for using this one. News about a sports team can work. Great conversation starters leave politics out.

Did you read about that game last night?

A positive current event is another great conversation starter.

5. Compliment the Other Person.

These are great conversation openers. A sincere compliment works when it’s specific.

That coat looks really great on you.

6. Mention a Detail

A positive remark and/or positive comment about the event works. A new conversational partner might be a stranger. Except for the fact you belong to an entire group. Here’s how to get a conversation going.

That last speaker made some good points. What do you think?

7. Keep You Right Hand Free

Any conversation needs to include a handshake. Keep your right hand free when landing a new conversation partner.

Hello. It’s nice to meet you

Most people will admit they paid attention to someone starting conversations this way.

8. Begin With the Weather

Pay attention to what’s going on outside. Real life situations like the weather are a great way to get a conversation started.

This rain is really something, isn’t it?

You can even reference a previous conversation.

I was just talking with someone about how cold it is.

How to Start a Conversation at Online Networking Events

A conversation flow naturally happens when two people are face to face with some help. But more and more people need good conversation starters as well as small talk and business networking tips for internet meetings. Here’s eight ways to start a conversation at an online event. These are digital small talk tips to engage a conversation partner.

9. Do Some Research

A little research will help you start a conversation. Get a list of attendees to the virtual event before hand. Below is one of the best conversation starters.

“Hello—. I read your profile before the event and wondered if we could have a conversation. You did a great job on your recent project.

Flattery leads to a conversation.

10. Make Sure To Engage

Online events have discussions and even quizzes. Start a conversation by asking open ended questions like:

“What do others think of that last speaker? I’m interested to know.”

Starting a conversation can focus on what attendees do in their free time too. Remember, dont get them talking about controversial topics. Get the other person to talk about their hobbies.

What is everyone’s favorite tv show?

11. Ask A Day to Day Life Question

There’s room for talking and conversation with a person before a meeting starts. Ask a question to get a conversation started around personal information.

What family members do you respect the most?

A person’s family is a good conversation starter that works. Most people like to talk about the person closest to them.

12. Ask About Social Events

A decent conversation can start around a favorite movie. Or get attendees talking about music.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been too?

The arts are excellent conversation starters. Especially if a person has a business that focuses in that area.

13. Ask Them To Describe Their Mood.

Digging into their expert knowledge comes later in the event. Asking new friends about their mood breaks the ice. A conversation starter works with them talking about their social life. Or sharing their own writing about how they feel on a Zoom whiteboard. Not really a conversation but an effective ice breaker.

“Who is in a good mood today? Take a deep breath and describe it.”

This conversation works wonders. It gets the other person to talk about themselves.

14. Register on the Community Board

Find a new conversational partner to talk with before the event starts. A community board can lead to a personal text conversation. People also love “talking” through messaging on the boards too.

“I’m looking for some more tips on how to get the most from this event. Contact me at ….”

15. Post on Your Website Pre Event

Put a notice up that you’ve registered for the event and are looking for a conversation partner. Look for someone to talk to on Twitter , LinkedIn and Facebook too.

16. Take Advantage of Real Time Messaging

Use real time messaging as topics are presented to get more details from another person. This way of starting a conversation builds trust. You show the other person you value their opinions. Mutual respect is a great conversation starter.

Use these Conversation Starters to Have a Great Networking Event

Now you have an overview on how to start a conversation. Talking with another person at an online or brick and mortar event can make a difference. Maybe you’re looking for a new job. Or have a person talk about their needs so you can make a sale.

Either way a conversation helps to further your goals. The more people at events talk, the more the conversations benefit your business. And if you have a hard time doing so, look into ways to help you, such as networking for introverts.

Image: Depositphotos

Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.