Conversation Starters That Really Work (And Don’t Make You Sound Like an Idiot)

Posted November 28, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Networking Buzz

Starting conversations with strangers is not easy….for anyone. No matter how outgoing you are, how big your personality, standing next to someone you don’t know and saying hello for the first time is intimidating and can make you feel like a damn moron. We’ve all been there, no matter our age, profession, or stage in our career. You’re talking to someone at an event, you think the conversation is going well, and suddenly either you or they say something so stupid, so idiotic, you simply want to slap yourself in the face, bury your head in the sand, and run away as quickly as possible.

The key to starting good conversations is to do so with interest and purpose that is both strategic and authentic. Small talk, unfortunately, doesn’t always work. There’s only so many times you can talk about the weather and the traffic before you start killing potential relationships and seeing event after event go by without a real connection.

Our friends over at Inc. got us thinking with their article “15 Perfect Sales Conversation Starters.” And we thought to ourselves, why should this advice only work for sales people? Sure, they’re trying to close a deal, but aren’t we all? So take the advice of the best sales people out there and start conversations with the close in mind. And the best sales closers start with….a question! We’ve pulled from Inc.’s list some questions that can translate beyond the sales call in to your every day networking.

  • What don’t you like about your current situation?
  • What other options are you looking at?
  • What prompted you to start this project now?
  • What can you tell me about the people involved in the process?

It’s simple. Ask questions about a person, about their company, about their coworkers and their projects, and you’ll find that your conversation goes far beyond just a starter and into a full blown relationship.


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."