Best Conversation Starters to Use in a Professional Setting

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Conversation starters are an effective tool for meeting new people, learning new things and sharing experiences. Starting a conversation with someone new may feel like a challenge but can lead to a rewarding experience and connection. In this article, you can explore some of the best conversation starters to use when interacting with new people to promote collaboration and career growth.

Why are conversation starters important?

Conversation starters are important for getting to know someone, building rapport and expanding your network. Teamwork, project success and new opportunities are often the result of our ability to successfully connect and work with others. Developing the skill for starting a conversation with someone helps you initiate, grow and maintain connections with people to ensure success in your organization and your career.

When to use conversation starters

You can use conversation starters in many different professional setting. When you start a new job or begin working with a new group of colleagues, building a rapport can promote collaboration and improve communication. You can make new connections in your professional field when you attend networking and industry events like conferences and conventions. Industry-specific shows allow you to discover the latest trends, products and technology as well as connect with the companies offering these items.

Conversation starters for a new team

Here are some conversation starters to use when joining a new team:

What is your favorite part about working at this company?

This question opens a dialogue about the benefits of working at the organization. A person’s response to this question tells you about the company as well as that person’s attitude toward the company. You can use this question to identify ways you relate to your teammates on what elements make up a positive workplace environment.

What do you think about X project?

Use this question to learn more about the project you are assigned to as well as your teammates’ ideas, goals and perspectives. Understanding what your teammates think about a new project can help you align your goals and perspectives and find ways to support and add to their ideas, promoting collaboration.

What is your background in X industry?

This question helps you get an understanding of the background and experience a teammate brings to the company or project. Learning about your teammates’ experience helps you understand how different team members can help each other with different projects and tasks, which can lead to better organizational practices and teams with diverse skill sets. It also helps you build respect for each of your teammates and their skills and continue to find ways to relate to your coworkers.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

You can use this question to better get to know your teammates’ personalities and what they value most about themselves. This kind of conversation can help you get to know people on a more personal level, which can improve communication, build trust and promote a fun working environment. In addition, how long it takes them to respond can also reveal elements of their personality. One teammate may have an immediate answer while another takes time to carefully deliberate.

Offer a compliment

Whether they’re related to someone’s performance on a recent project, outfit or hairstyle, compliments are a friendly conversation starter. Compliments communicate that you value the other person, allow them to take pride in the subject and invite them to share details about their success.

Conversation starters for networking or industry events

Here are some conversation starters to use for networking or industry events:

What brings you to the event today?

This question opens a conversation about your motivations for attending the event and what you expect to gain from it. Use this question to learn from their expectations and enhance your own experience.

Have you been to this event before? What was your experience?

Use this question to learn from other people’s experiences with an event, help newcomers feel more comfortable or find common ground if you have similar experience or are also new at the event.

What seminars did you attend during the breakout sessions?

Networking and industry events often have concurrent seminars. This question allows you to talk about the seminars you each attended and learn about seminars you didn’t attend, which can help you gain new, valuable information and connect with other people who may also be interested in similar industry topics.

What is your favorite part of this event?

Networking and industry events may include vendor exhibits, seminars and special networking breaks. This question helps you learn about what others value at these events and find exhibits and information sessions you haven’t visited yet.

What kind of work do you do?

Networking and industry events attract people from a variety of occupations. This question helps you learn about others’ work, how it relates to your work and understand different occupations within a particular industry.

Conversation starters for trade shows or product events

Here are some conversation starters to use at trade shows or product events:

How long has your organization used X product or software?

This question helps you understand different people’s experiences with a product or software, allowing you to learn others’ perspectives or to help them with your own experience.

How does your organization use X product or software?

Different organizations have different processes and often have unique applications for products and software. This question may help you learn new and innovative ways to use the product at your company.

What are your suggestions for implementing X product or software?

This question helps you learn from others’ implementation experiences to mitigate challenges and improve your own experience with the product or software. It also gives you the opportunity to share your experience with someone else who may benefit from your strategies in their own implementation.

How does your organization integrate X product or software with other systems?

Asking about how people at other organizations integrate a product or software into larger systems can give you insight into ways you can enhance how your organization uses the product. If you have similar systems or integration experiences, this also creates common ground and an opportunity to share your experience as well.

Have you spoken with any vendors today? Which products do you think are the most useful?

This question allows you to learn about different vendors, how their products are relevant to the event and if there are any new ones you should speak with. You can connect with professionals from companies with similar needs and functions as yours to determine the most applicable vendors.