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Effective conversation starters for many work-related scenarios

CareerBuilder | May 20, 2022

Conversation starters

Learn about conversation starters for many work-related scenarios, including networking events, work parties, and team meetings.

"Strong communication is key for success in any role. Starting conversations can help establish relationships and strengthen future interactions and influence in the workplace," said Liz Cannata, VP, Human Resources at CareerBuilder. Deciding how to start a conversation can be difficult when in a professional environment, particularly after being isolated due to the pandemic. Fortunately, we have some examples of great conversation starters you can use, depending on the scenario in which you find yourself.

Developing your ability to start conversations effectively and maintain them can improve your capacity to influence others in your work environment in a positive way and can inspire creativity and productivity. Even small talk can be integral to success at work. In this article, we discuss examples of conversation starters in several situations, including when at networking events, work parties, and team meetings.

Basic conversation starters

There are many scenarios when you may use general conversation starters, such as when spending time during a break with a team member or getting to know a new hire. These conversation starters allow you to get to know the person you're speaking with better and can allow for more meaningful conversation to begin flowing. Some of these conversation starters for work-appropriate topics may include:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • Is there a particular social cause that you are passionate about?
  • What do you like to do outside of work?
  • What are some goals you have already achieved?
  • What do you hope to achieve in your professional life?
  • What is the best way to stay motivated and complete goals?
  • What is the craziest, most outrageous thing you want to achieve?
  • What do you think of online education?
  • If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you want to go?

Conversation starters for interviews

During interviews, you can ask your interviewer questions to start conversations about the work environment and responsibilities of the position in which you're applying. If you know who's going to interview you ahead of time, you can look at their social media profiles to find any commonalities you have that may be useful for starting a conversation. You can also create a profile on a career website so employers can find you based on commonalities.

Some of these conversation starters might include:

  • Can you tell me more about the company culture here?
  • How does your company support work-life balance?
  • Where do you see this company going in five years?
  • How has this company changed since you began working here?
  • What kind of advancement opportunities are there for this position?
  • Is there anything on my application that you wanted more information about?
  • I saw that you went to Duke? Are you a basketball fan?

Conversation starters for team meetings

You can use conversation starters to welcome new team members into the team quickly, easily, and begin the productive flow of ideas. Some of these conversation starters might include:

  • What is everyone's favorite holiday?
  • If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one thing with you, what would it be?
  • What's your favorite pizza topping?
  • If you could spend a day with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
  • Who's the most famous person you've ever met?
  • What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Conversation starters for networking events

You can use conversation starters to help increase your number of contacts and move the networking event forward. Some of these conversation starters might include:

  • How did you hear about this event?
  • How did you get started in your industry?
  • What is the biggest challenge you currently face in your business?
  • Where do you see yourself going in the next five years?
  • What is your favorite part about being in your industry?

Conversation starters for sales meetings

You can use conversation starters in sales meetings to help create a personal connection to potential customers and understand their needs. Some of these conversation starters might include:

  • How did you hear about our products?
  • Do you have any ideas about how I can improve my products?
  • How do you see your business evolving over the next five years?
  • What is one thing that frustrates you about other suppliers?
  • How are you planning on using our products?
  • What are some of the difficulties you have been experiencing with your current vendors?

Conversation starters for conference calls

During conference calls, it can be difficult to know when it is appropriate to chime in. One way to make conference calls feel more natural is to use conversation starters such as:

  • Does anyone have any challenges they want to discuss and work out with the team?
  • Do you want to go around and describe one victory we had this week?
  • Can everyone tell me their favorite holiday and why?
  • Is anyone into astrology? Do you know your sign?
  • Did anyone watch the football game last night?
  • I have been binging this show, has anyone seen it? Do you have recommendations for other shows?

Conversation starters for conferences

At conferences, you can use a variety of conversation starters to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, informative, and helpful. Some of these conversation starters might include:

  • What are some important conferences in your industry?
  • What's the first thing that comes to mind when I ask you about the conference you just attended?
  • What have you taken away from this conference that has inspired you the most?
  • Which speakers have you seen?
  • Which speakers are you most looking forward to at this conference?
  • Have you attended this conference in the past?

Conversation starters for company parties

At company parties, you may need to initiate or continue the flow of conversation. These conversation starters are usually more casual due to the environment. You can use these conversation starters to create a connection and get the ball rolling:

  • Can you believe it's already the end of the month? Do you have any plans for next month?
  • How has your family been lately?
  • Are you looking forward to the Halloween party? Do you know what you're dressing as?
  • Who have you been talking to so far?
  • This place is beautiful. Have you been here before?
  • Have you tried the food yet? Anything that you recommend?

All these conversation starters can be modified and used in many different ways, depending on the type of situation you are in and your personal communication style. Being an active listener during conversations can help make them more meaningful and allow you to develop deeper connections with those around you.

More conversation tips:

Learn how to be a good listener.

Read about how communication is changing.

Explore tips for running a meeting.

Learn how to avoid conference call failures.

Discover how to turn coworkers into friends.