Effective conversation starters for in-person networking

Gerald Lombardo

Gerald Lombardo
November 15, 2022 6 min read

Okay, so you’ve just entered. You scan the room, maybe you see a few familiar faces, maybe you don’t. If you don’t then what do you do? The answer when it comes to networking events is simple: Start talking to someone. Remember everyone who goes to networking events is just like you - they are people who believe in the value of in-person interactions and of connecting in the physical world. If you’re familiar with this type of professional interaction, conversations are easy to start. If not, however, you may be looking for some tips. Don’t worry - we’re here to help!

Here are 10 great conversation starters for your next networking event.

great conversation starters for networking

Networking conversation starters

So, you’re at a networking event. You see someone you don’t know. And then what? How do you start a conversation with this complete stranger?

There are a few different ways you can go about it. The first is to simply walk up to the person and introduce yourself. And this is conversation starter number 1.

Starter 1: Simply Introduce Yourself

This one seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. Just walk up to the person, stick out your hand and say “Hi, my name is _______”. It really is that easy.

While this tactic may be "old school," or think that you have to come up with something more clever. But you don't, especially not at a networking event. Simply walk up and introduce yourself. The one qualifier, is that's it's better to pick someone (or a group) that is not in the middle of an intense of passionate conversation already. You don't want to bring things to a screeching halt just you can start pressing palms.

Starter 2: Compliment Their Outfit

If you’re struggling to think of something to say, one easy way to start a conversation is by complimenting the person’s outfit. This is a great icebreaker because it shows that you’re interested in them and it’s a nice thing to say. Who doesn’t like being told they look good?

Of course, when it comes to talking about someone's appearance, there's always a chance it can get taken the right way. But if you stick with harmless observations and are actually sincere, the compliment will almost always "land." And if it doesn't - again, especially at a networking event - don't try to make excuses or tap dance your way out. Simply tell the truth, say "My mistake, didn't mean to offend you, I'm just here to..."

Sincerity in a compliment comes from commenting on something that you actually notice and like. For example, if the person is wearing an amazing pair of shoes, or has on a designer label that you recognize, those would be great conversation starters.

"I love your shoes!" or "That's a great Gucci bag. How long have you had it?" are both examples of ways you can start a conversation by complimenting someone's outfit.

Starter 3: Talk About The Event

Another easy way to start a conversation is by talking about the event itself. This is a great icebreaker because it gives you something to bond over. Maybe you’re both there for the same reason or maybe you have different reasons but either way, it’s a topic of conversation that can help you get to know each other better.

For example, you could say something like “I’ve been to a few of these events and they’re always so helpful. Have you been to one before?” or “I’m really looking forward to networking and meeting new people tonight. What about you?”

These are both great conversation starters because they give the other person a chance to share their own experiences and thoughts on the event. And who knows, you might even have something in common!

Networking Conversation Starter 4: Mention How You Know the Person

Number four is all about social media. In today’s day and age, it’s more likely than not that you’ve already looked up the person you’re interested in networking with on social media. And if that’s the case, then use that to your advantage!

Mention something you saw on their profile or bring up a recent post they made. For example, you could say something like “I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you’re looking for a new job. I might know of a few openings that could be perfect for you.”

Or, if you follow them on Twitter, you could say something like “I loved your tweet about _______. It really spoke to me.” This is a great conversation starter because it shows that you’re interested in what they have to say and it gives you a chance to bond over something you both care about.

Both of these conversation starters are great because they show that you’ve done your research and that you’re interested in connecting with this person on a deeper level. And who knows, maybe you can even help each other out!

Networking Conversation Starter 5: Find Common Ground

Number five is all about common ground. When it comes to networking, one of the best ways to start a conversation is by finding something you have in common with the other person. This could be anything from a shared interest to a mutual connection.

For example, let’s say you’re both interested in fitness. Talk about that. Talk about your opinions on diet and what has and has not worked for you. But remember - no monologues. Tell what you think on a particular subject, yes. But then ask what the other person thinks - and go from there.

Networking Conversation Starter 6: Ask What They Do

If you don’t know what the person does professionally, ask them! Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to tell you. Especially at a networking event. If there are instances of you working with people in their industry you can mention those or, better yet, if you know about some interesting industry news, talk about that. People love talking about their industry - and who knows, maybe you'll even learn something.

Networking Conversation Starter 7: Tell About What You Do

Sure, you have to be careful when talking too much about yourself. But people also like when you take the lead on a conversation and don't leave it fully up to them to generate things to talk about. So start with a basic introduction on yourself and what you do and then allow them to do the same. You don't have to give your whole bio out-of-the gate, but just enough to make your networking connection feel comfortable with you and to give them something to work off of conversationally.

Networking Conversation Starter 8: Get to Know Their Interests

Asking someone about their interests is a great way to get to know them on a more personal level. And when you know more about someone, it’s easier to find things to talk about. So ask away! People love talking about their hobbies and passions. For example, let’s say they’re into hiking. You could ask them about their favorite trails, what kind of gear they use, etc.

Or, let’s say they’re into fashion. You could ask them about their personal style or who their favorite designers are. The possibilities are endless! And the more you know about their interests, the easier it’ll be to find common ground and start a conversation.

Networking Conversation Starter 9: Talk About Your Goals

This is a great conversation starter because it allows you to bond with the other person over your shared goals. It also gives you a chance to talk about what you’re working on and what you’re hoping to achieve. And who knows, maybe the person you’re networking with can help you achieve your goals!

So go ahead and ask about their goals. What are they working on? What are they hoping to achieve? This is a great way to get to know someone on a deeper level and it’s a great conversation starter.

Networking Conversation Starter 10: Comment on the Weather

This one might seem mundane. But small talk is an important part of networking because it allows you to break the ice and get to know the other person. And what better way to start small talk than by commenting on the weather?

It’s a simple conversation starter but it can be very effective. Just make sure you don’t go too deep into the weather conversation. You don’t want to bore the other person!

Conclusion - Networking Conversation Starters

So there you have it! Ten great conversation starters for your next networking event. Remember, the key is to be genuine, interested, and interesting. If you can do that, you’ll be sure to make a great impression.

Read more networking secrets here. Or learn more broadly about networking and how to network here.

Happy networking!


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