Starting conversations with strangers can be stressful and difficult, especially for introverts. So, it is very important to have a few conversation starters prepared for any situation you may find yourself in.
Conversation starters are actually more important than conversation topics. They are the topics that smoothly lead you to conversation topics. You don’t want to walk up to someone and ask immediately: hey, what’s your favorite tv show? Or what family traditions do you have? Or who’s your favorite actor? Or what was the last book you read? These topics would be horribly awkward to start with.
So, when walking up or sitting down next to a stranger, the first thing you should do is introduce yourself to the stranger, if you haven’t already. If you were introduced already, you should start a conversation on the bit of knowledge you already know about the person.
For example, if you know the stranger works at the same company as the hostess of the event or as your friend, start there. You can say something along the lines of: So, you work with Sarah at J & J Publishing… If you pause for a second at this point, a conversational person will jump in and add more information like: Yes we’ve worked together for 3 years. She’s great at her job. Then you can respond with something like: So, what do you do at the company? And then move on from there.
If however, you know nothing about the stranger and you are at a dining event, you can start a conversation about the food or wine. When going this route, be careful not to sound pretentious. Don’t name drop. Keep your starter easy, general, and down-to-earth.
For example, you can say something along the lines of: This food tastes really good. There’s nothing like good food, don’t you think? At this point you can pause and see if the stranger wants to jump in. If the stranger doesn’t, you can continue with: What food do you like to eat?
When attending an event that revolves around a profession or hobby, it is easier to come up with a conversation starter. For example, if you want to speak with a stranger at an art event and he or she is standing in front of a painting, you can walk up to that person and ask something as simple as: what do you think about it? Or: do you like it?
You can also start a conversation about the weather. Yes, this can be quite boring but it is the easiest way to begin a conversation. It’s like putting grease in a baking pan before the cake batter. You can skip this step. But it sure is going to be difficult taking the cake out.
The key with starting with the weather is to have something appropriate and interesting to share or ask along with it.
For example, if it had been raining all week and it’s still raining while you and the stranger stand near a window or door, you can say something along the lines of: I love the rain. Don’t you? It always make me want to read a book with a mug of coffee next to me. Usually the stranger will nod in agreement or shake in disagreement as this point. If you are fortunate, you can lead from there by asking a question like: what about you? From there, lead with what you learn. For example, if the stranger agrees, you can then ask: so, what kind of books do you like to read?
When moving on from a conversation starter, we advise you keep your next questions broad and simple? For example, after the rain conversation, you could ask: What kind of books do you like to read? This question is easier to answer than what’s your favorite author. Many people say they like to read but rarely read. So, they may find it difficult to name an author quickly and will then feel embarrassed or an urge to move on.
Remember, when beginning a relationship, people often say what they think the other wants to hear. So, keep your conversation easy and general when speaking with strangers.
Many advise starting a conversation with a compliment. For dating purposes, it is an easy way to go. However, when speaking at profession-related events, you have to be very careful with this for several reasons. The first reason is the rise in sexual harassment cases. Ladies need to be just as careful as men with what they say to other ladies and men. We are after all fighting for equality. So, when giving a compliment, you must be certain there is no sexual or suggestive undertone to it.
The second problem is this starter often falls flat if you are unable to carry on smoothly after or if the stranger is not proficient in carrying a conversation. We’ve seen this happen many times.
A lady walks up to another and says: your dress is beautiful! And the other lady says: thank you! And then the awkward pause because both ladies don’t know where to go from there. In this case, the compliment-er didn’t have a follow-up topic and didn’t leave any room for deviation.
Another situation we’ve also seen with the compliment starter is: a lady walks up to another and says, your dress is beautiful! And the other lady responds: thank you, it’s Karen Baciara! And then the awkward pause occurs because the compliment-er has no idea who Karen Baciara is. So, when going this route, it is very important you have something else planned to say after.
For more advice and tricks, please go to the Speech section of our website by clicking: here.