Break The Ice With These Networking Conversation Starters

Networking can be an awkward situation for even the most experienced professional. Going to an event with the purpose of exchanging information and developing a relationship with strangers is often an anxiety-inducing situation. Regardless of your level of comfort or experience with networking, we can all use some tips to make the process easier.

One of the biggest qualms people have when it comes to networking is the awkwardness of approaching someone you don’t know and starting a conversation. More often than not we overthink the situation and it can be handled by simply talking, but sometimes we need a little extra help along the way. Believe it or not, you’re likely not the only one feeling this way. Others at the event are probably wishing someone would start the conversation because they feel uncomfortable doing so.

Starting these conversations can lead to new relationships (both professional and personal), business opportunities and even future job opportunities. All it takes is the confidence to start that conversation because you never know where it might lead. To make things a little easier, our friends at The Muse polled career experts and social media followers on their favorite icebreakers to use in various networking situations. They are broken down into five categories (read the full article here).

The Classics

These questions are very simple. You can ask what someone does, why he or she is at the event or even just say hi. Some of the examples from The Muse community include:

“What’s your favorite conversation starter at a networking event?”

“Hi, I’m Zach. What do you do?”

Location, Location, Location

Regardless of your background, current job and all the things that differ between you and the people at the event, you all have one thing in common – you’re all at the same event. You can use this commonality to your advantage and start a conversation about the food or drink available, or even your surroundings. Examples include:

“How did you hear about this event?”

“Have you tried the potstickers?”

The Newsworthy

If you don’t want to talk about things going on at the event, you can bring up current events in the world. Topics to avoid include touchy subjects such as politics, but you can share some headlines to get the conversation flowing.

“Did you watch any of the game last night?”

“The traffic getting here was crazy! Did you have any problems?”

Great for Introverts

For those who identify as an introvert, the thought of walking into a room or being surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know can be enough to change your mind about going altogether. If you can relate, The Muse recommends seeking out others who may be in a similar situation. Look for people on the outskirts of the room, away from all the action. They likely feel the same as you and want to talk to people but lack the confidence. This might be an uncomfortable situation for the both of you, but all it takes is one icebreaker to get the ball rolling.

“Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?”

“I’m so bad at networking.”

The Funny

A little humor can be a great way to break the ice and ease an awkward situation but be mindful that not everyone may understand your sense of humor. The worst thing you can do is offend someone before even meeting them. As they say, first impressions are the most lasting.

“I just came for the [insert free food item].”

“I’ll be honest, the only person I know here is the bartender and I just met him two minutes ago. Mind if I introduce myself?”

The Totally Random

Sometimes thinking outside of the box is the best way to make a lasting impression. If you go beyond the typical small talk at these events, people will likely remember you. Some questions you can ask are:

“Do you know of any great pizza places around here?”

“If there is one question you don’t want me to ask you, because you are sick and tired of answering it, what question would that be?”

When you get a job, networking doesn’t just stop. It will be something that is a constant throughout the entirety of your career. Luckily this does not have to be something we dread and can be made easier through a variety of tips and conversation starters. When you’re getting ready for your next networking event, consider working some of these ice breakers into the mix and report back to let us know how they go!

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