The best conversation starters do three things:
- Make your entrance seamless and natural
- Add value without demanding too much (easy on the receiver)
- Makes you look positive and confident
Best Conversation Starters
People on their own are always your best bet.
Walks to someone on his own and:
- Hi, I’m Lucio
If you have someone near with a drink momentarily on his own raise your drink for a toast and say:
In line for the drinks or as you’re side by side against the bar:
- How you doing
To approach a group, hover a few secs on the periphery. If nobody turns, keep moving. If the group stops:
- Hey guys, I’m Lucio, hi (shake hands in a circle)
When you want to impose your presence without waiting for anybody, step into the group and say:
- Hey, do you mind me joining, I’m Lucio
Or even simpler, which is confidence while also building them up at the same time. Put a mischievous smile on and say:
- Hi guys, I wanted to join you 🙂
At buffets with high tables, any table is an easy island to plant your flag on. Then you’re a micro-host of your table island.
As soon as you see someone interesting pass by, start talking:
- Hey, how are you enjoying the event
If the table is busy but there’s enough space for one more go for it. Nobody can refuse space: they are shared.
Put on a warm smile and put them in front of your fait accompli intrusion:
- Hi, I hope you don’t mind me sharing the table
Compliments are another fantastic way of starting a conversation.
Approaching someone who spoke at an event:
- I loved your speech. Especially the courage of putting yourself out there: so open and vulnerable
To anyone who put effort into his appearance:
- I love your style man
To the host:
- Hey, thank you for organizing and great job, it’s such a great event
Here are a few tips to keep the conversation going after you’ve delivered your conversation starter
Keep The Conversation Going
Always go for open-ended questions that get people talking:
- How did you end up here
- How come you chose this event
I particularly love to re-open people you spoke to earlier either as part of a group or from a previous conversation.
Also, notice the finessing of saying “I heard it’s a competitive field”, so if it’s not going well you already offer him an excuse to say it’s not exactly flying 🙂
- How’s that VR company you launched going, I heard it’s a competitive field
Look for interesting bits where to dig deeper:
- Oh wow, you two were in a relationship and now you go out together as friends? Respect, how did that work out for you
Look for commonalities:
- Oh, you’re also in tech, cool. What kind of tech start-up are you in
P.S.: you can use the above even when you’re not in the same field or have the same interest. Maybe you worked there in the past, have friends who work there or you’re just interested in it.
End The Conversation
Always end the conversation on a high.
- I see, sounds like a great plan. Hey, I wish you all the best with it, I’ll take a walk and see you around
Or if you exchanged contacts and agree to meet again:
- Cool, I admire your determination. Kate, it was a pleasure! I’ll write you later to schedule something then
And here are’s the bonus on the conversation starters you want to avoid:
Terrible Conversation Starters
I scoured around the web a little bit and I found some conversation starters which I believe are terrible.
- Which [speaker/panel] are you most excited about?
Get real folks!
Few if any really give a flying F about the speakers.
They’re there to network, enjoy the free food, show their new dress and possibly meet some girl/man. They’re all focused on themselves and asking about the speakers shows a lack of understanding of their world.
- Tell me about you
What’s wrong with this?
It asks for major investment right off the bat and socially aware people don’t like that (same as for dating).
This is, effectively, a power move as it asks people to jump through your hoops before you give anything.
It works well if it’s a dating situation and a man wants to get a woman to invest quickly, but otherwise, avoid it!
- What’s your story?
Just imagine someone walks up to you and asks you what’s your story. How do you even reply to that?
The only fair reply I can think of is “and who the hell are you“.
Never start telling your story to someone you’ve just met!
- What personal passion project are you working on
This is the equivalent of Trump describing the way he meets women: grabbing them by their private parts.
Openers like there indeed are equivalent to conversation starters’ rape.
Open neutrally first, and build up as you go deeper.
Here’s a step by step to make your conversation starter work well:
- Nonverbal comes first: warm smile, open body language
- Start easy: the most receptive people, the wallflowers, etc.
- Say “hi, how is it going, my name is“
- Talk a bit, then move: socialization is like a snowball: the more momentum you get the better you perform