Okay, so you’re at a networking event and you’re meeting someone new for the first time. How do you break the ice and start a conversation that turns into an engaging discussion? Many people resort to the boring default of, “Hey, what do you do?” There are way better approaches that will help the other person open up and talk about stuff that really matters to them.
Here are my favorite ice breakers:
Who introduced/brought you?
This is a great conversation starter because it lets the other person talk about the connection they have that led to their visit. You can ask, “How did you meet them?” This conversation starter is great because you might get a funny story. At the very least, you’ll either get a sense of their own initiative (if they invited themselves), or insight into their networks by seeing who they are connected to.
What’s getting you fired up lately?
I like this one because they will usually talk about stuff that isn’t about work. You’ll get to know a bit more about them as a person: their likes and passions. They might talk about activities, an upcoming vacation, their kids, an upcoming wedding, or other things that can lead to useful information that can give you a chance to refer business to others.
What are you nerdy about?
Asking people what they’re “nerdy” about is pretty cool because you can be nerdy about a lot of things that have nothing to do with computers. Could be anything that involves detailed knowledge, like a sport or interest they are involved in. Once again, it opens the door to information that may not have anything to do with work, which is great because it takes the discussion outside the typical “networking” box and makes it interesting. That’s what relationships are all about!
What would you do with a million dollars?
This is such an unexpected question that it will lead to all kinds of interesting responses. You’ll get a better look at the things that really matter to the person from their answer, and like many of the other ice breakers mentioned, chances are it won’t be about work.
And if you do ask the usual, “what do you do?,” you can always go on to ask “what’s your favourite part of that work?” to get some actual interesting conversation.