How to Start a Conversation: DON’T Talk About Weather

The holiday season is a great time to expand your network, reconnect with existing contacts, and exchange information that might lead to a job.

The problem is, to do all of this networking, you have to talk to people.

I don’t know about you, but I hate small talk. If I hear one more person’s opinion of the weather I’m going to lose my mind!

As an introvert and a recovering shy person, starting conversations with people I don’t know is exhausting and often frightening. I’d rather go to the dentist than have to chit-chat with 10 strangers at a networking event — seriously.

But I do enjoy networking … most of the time. One way I overcome my nerves is to just be myself. I don’t focus on impressing people or set an agenda for the conversation. I just talk with potential business contacts, future clients or industry leaders as if they were, well, people.

And I don’t talk about the weather (or at least I try not to).

Not every conversation turns into a solid employment or money-generating lead, nor should it. Networking is about building relationships. It’s about connecting with people to help each other and share resources and information. You don’t know what resource you might have to offer someone without getting to know them first.

Here are 10 conversation starters. The next time you are in a situation where you want to network or just start a conversation with someone, try one of these opening lines or create one that feels right for you.

1.    What did you think of the speaker/presentation? (If at a conference or workshop.)

2.    That’s an interesting necklace (or tie) you’re wearing. Is there a story behind that?

3.    Do you have any plans for the summer (or winter or whatever season is coming up)?

4.    Love your shoes. I need a new pair of brown shoes. Are those comfortable?

5.    Read any good books lately? Have you read blah blah blah?

6.    What was your last vacation? Where did you go?

7.    I notice you were talking to John Doe earlier. He’s such a great guy. How do you two know each other?

8.    I’m watching the last season of “Lost” on DVD and am totally confused. Did you watch that show?

9.    I heard an interesting story on public radio (or read a news article, or saw a story on TV) about blah blah blah. Did you happen to catch that?

10. I am so excited about the Goo Goo Dolls concert next month. Have you been to any live music shows lately?

When starting a conversation, try to avoid asking questions with one word responses (yes, no, thanks). The point is to get the other person talking. Hopefully the conversation will begin to flow and the two of you will have a comfortable back-and-forth. If not, after a few minutes don’t be afraid to politely say “it was nice meeting you” and move on.

What conversation starters have you used? Did you ever use an opening line that backfired?

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One thought on “How to Start a Conversation: DON’T Talk About Weather

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