Networking Conversation Tips: 7 Ways to Start a Conversation

by Amy Steinberg Published Oct 23, 2018 Last updated Oct 23, 2018

November is a conference-heavy month, with many opportunities for networking. In order to effectively make new connections, however, you have to know how to get the conversation started. Try some of these eight conversation starters to begin the conversation at your next networking event.

Starter #1: News Events

Before heading off to your conference, take a look at the latest industry news and events. What’s happening? What’s the latest release? Is there a controversial topic that’s generating a lot of conversation? Once you know what’s happening in the industry, you can use that to generate conversation starters. “So, what do you think about…” “Hey, did you hear…” “I’m really excited about [new industry release or upcoming product]. Have you heard anything else about it?” As a bonus, these simple starters will make it easier to show off your industry knowledge and your place in the industry.

Starter #2: Be Complimentary

If there’s a specific person at a networking event that you want to get to know, take the time to learn a little bit more about them before you head in for the event. Consider their accomplishments, their major contributions to the industry, or materials that you know they’ve written. When you know a lot about someone, you can break the ice with a simple, “I was really impressed by [x].” “I recently read [x], and I loved the part where you said…”

Starter #3: Ask a Question

Everyone likes to feel as though their input is valued–and networking events are no exception to that rule. If you want to start a conversation, consider asking a question that makes your new contact feel as though their feedback is genuinely desired. For example, “I recently read [x that they wrote], and I had a question about…” “I was wondering about your opinion on [latest industry development].” “I’m so glad you’re here because I was really hoping to ask your advice about…” Not only will this give you the opportunity to make key connections, but it will also give you the chance to get some of your questions answered–so make sure that your questions are well thought out and that it’s something you genuinely want to know.

Starter #4: Introduce Yourself

“Hi, I’m Matt. I work at [x] company, and I’m here today hoping to…” “Hey, I’m Jennifer. I’m a [role] at [x]…” By sharing some personal information about yourself right off the bat, you can help showcase your openness and willingness to connect. Sharing personal information can also give your new contact a better idea of who you are, which in turn will let them know why they might want to connect with you. Remember, others are at these events to make contacts, too.

Starter #5: Make a Friend

Attending networking events can be lonely, especially if you went on your own or your colleagues are spread across the room. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be! Make a friend as you swing by a particular table or connect with someone in a seminar. Introduce yourself, then invite your new friend to come along with you as you grab something to eat or head in for an event. This will naturally improve your connection with people and make you more memorable to them in the future.

Starter #6: Talk About the Event

You’ve never been here before, and you have no idea where the bathrooms are–or perhaps you’re struggling to find the room where the next event will be held. Find someone who looks like they know what they’re doing and ask a few questions. At most networking events, people are eager to be helpful, and they’ll usually be kind enough to help you out. This can help open doors to more conversation, especially if your new contact is willing to walk with you to your destination.

Starter #7: Check Out the Fringes

If you’re a confirmed introvert, just walking up to someone and starting a conversation can feel like a challenge. Fortunately, there are likely several more introverts just like you at the fringes of the event. Find someone else who is looking overwhelmed or unwilling to dive in, then start the conversation with an opener guaranteed to help you connect. Try something like, “These things are so hard, aren’t they?” or, “Ugh, I never know how to get started at these things.”

Getting started with the conversation at a networking event is one of the hardest parts, but don’t worry: you’re not alone! In many cases, the people you approach will simply be glad that someone else broke the ice and started the conversation, which means that you can let your nerves rest and focus on more important details.