Conversation Starters at Networking Events

Best Practices

Birds with quote bubbles

Networking events where everyone is simply trying to pitch their business are no fun for anyone. So think of the event as a party at a friend’s house where you’re likely to meet some cool new people. Let go of any particular result other than you’re your own hero for getting out there despite what you really wanted to do (run, hide, cry, eat pizza). All conversation starting involves risk. If you honestly approach people with an interest in getting to know them better, you can’t go wrong. If they snub you, they’re not your people anyway.

  • Be genuinely interested in others. Let them talk. Don’t “one-up” their answer.
  • Don’t judge by appearances, we all know what ASSumptions do.
  • Wear an interesting piece of clothing so others might start a conversation with you.
  • Make eye contact for five, yes five seconds (you can count in your head) and then smile
    and move closer.
  • Easy does it but do it! You’ll be glad you did!

Stop thinking about yourself and ask them about them.
Some surefire, and as-safe-as possible openers would be:

  • “How are YOU doing?”
  • “Have you been to one of these before?”
  • (Eye contact, smile, extend hand, shake hand) “Hi. I’m ______________.”
  • “Hi. What do you hope to get out of this?”

Most people appreciate honesty and vulnerability:

If you’re nervous, they’re going to sense it anyway so it’s best to acknowledge it and then
watch it magically disappear.

  • “Can I stand by you for 2 minutes?”
  • “Thank God I’m not trying to ask you to dance.” or “Thank God I don’t have to ask anyone to dance at this shindig.”
  • “You intimidate me, but I think it’s worth getting over my fear and saying hi. So…hi!”
  • “This corner is for us anti-social socializers, right?”
  • “Hi. I’m pretending to be confident.”
  • “Why does this feel like the first day of high school?”

The Brave, The Bold, The Funny:

  • “Hi, do you want to not talk about politics?”
  • “Who should I watch out for?” (No, you’re not really going to gossip but that will likely prompt them to introduce you to someone fun and outgoing, which will make the whole night much easier).
  • “Wow, looking at your cool _______ (tie, shoes, etc.) makes me wish I would have worn my _______. Where did you get that?”
  • “Too bad they don’t allow animals in here.”
  • “I’m so glad we’re wearing name tags because I tend to make up names for people. What name would you give me?”
  • “What’s your elevator pitch?”
  • “I heard you’re one of the cool kids.”
  • “Are we friends on Facebook?”
  • “Would you believe I bought a Conversation Starter App?”

I’m crashing this event:

  • “If you were going to make up a fake name and business, what would it be?”
  • “Where do you wish you were instead?”
  • “I’m supposed to come up with a Mission Statement. Can I steal yours?”
  • “Thank God we didn’t have this at my house.”
  • “I should have watched that TED Talk about networking events.”
  • “Would it be weird if I started stuffing food in my pockets?”
  • “What would you rather be binge-watching?”

About the Author:

Liz Grant has all kinds of weird stuff in her background, giving her the perfect credentials to be an Artsy Geek copywriter. She’s a Bay Area native, whose parents taught her to think outside the circle. She went to a Zen school, and was once named Child of the Moment. All of the puppet shows and real life characters fired Liz’s imagination. The result is a magical marketing wordsmith, a dating coach and a soon to be semi-famous stand-up comedian.

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