In today’s digital network era, we often find ourselves hiding behind our seemingly perfect, online personalities. However, strong and lasting relationships are still built through face-to-face interactions, experts claim. Deep down we all know this, right? And who does not love a good old-fashioned, slightly awkward networking event? Some people are born with the natural ability of always knowing what to say in order to connect with their peers. For those of us who have more trouble networking, here are 10 opening lines to kick-start any networking conversation.
1. How did you like the programme?
This is a rather generic, but effective open question to get any conversation going. Because the question is so broad, it does not put much pressure on your partner as he or she can steer the direction of the conversation. Then, it is up to you to find aspects that you (dis)agree about, allowing for deeper discussion.
2. Where are you from, actually?
This one works especially well among international crowds. The truth is, many people love to talk about their roots, so chances are they will get excited. Another plus: if you happened to have visited their country of origin, you have reached common ground and can talk about all the great things you experienced during that trip. Want to take it a step further? Say something in their mother tongue! The result? Your partner is likely to start laughing and you two are bound to connect.
3. How are you?
When people are being introduced to someone new, the majority of people’s autopilots take over by saying “nice to meet you.” Stop doing that, it is mainstream. Instead, say something that triggers and surprises people, such as: “how do you do?” or “I have heard interesting things about you”.
4. What do you do?
Simple and classic. This certainly is an easy one. It allows people to come straight to the point and give them their regular sales pitch about how fantastic their jobs are, providing you with ample opportunity to see how you can fit into their story. For some cultures this might be too formal, therefore, you can also wait to drop this line until you are slightly further into the conversation.
5. What did you learn today?
This is a fun one, simply because it is not used often and therefore your conversation partners will really have to dig into their brains to generate a suitable answer. Also, sharing what one has learned, requires this person to open up to you and to show his vulnerability which, in turn, allows for a deeper connection.
6. I am starving, is the food here any good?
We all know that food can put us in the mood. Since eating has become such a social activity, talking about the event’s cuisine is a great way to casually get that conversation going. As such, that tasty sashimi might lead to more than just a satisfied tummy.
7. How did you sleep?
Perfect during an event’s first coffee session. This question is rather personal as it is often used in family settings. For this very reason, it might take people by surprise and could lead to them opening up to you about what kept them up all night or about that crazy dream they might have had. Make sure to refer to their answers in any future interactions you might have with this person, just to show that you remember and care.
8. Who is the most interesting person you have talked to today?
This question can bring about several effects. Firstly, it reveals what your partner considers interesting, which gives you the opportunity to tailor your story so that it becomes interesting to them too. Secondly, your partner might introduce you to this interesting person at a later stage. Thirdly, it sets the stage for a personal challenge, in the form of you becoming that most interesting person.
9. How did you hear about the event?
This question will require people to tell you about their (professional) background, which gives you time to figure out what you two have in common.
What are your favorite opening lines to successfully build business relationships? Feel free to add on!
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