Do you exquisitely dread networking events and conferences because of the required small talk chit chat? Ever have those moments of accumulating misery while trying to think of something interesting to say?
Just yesterday I was in a situation having to make small talk with a group of 4th year med students. It’s fun (but personally challenging) to create that bond that comes from an engaging conversation.
Here’s the secret sauce to a delightful conversation:
“The great charm of conversation consists less in the display of one’s own wit and intelligence than in the power to draw forth the resources of others.” Jean de la Bruyere
(Jean de la Bruyere was a 17th century French philosopher who enjoyed consistent royal favor.)
It can be challenging to find ways to connect with someone you may not know very well, or someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Especially if you find most chit chat boring. Face it, there are a lot of people out there who don’t converse with any sort of imagination. You can absolutely DEFLECT boring conversations by using these questions.
By using your conversation imagination, you can…
- Strike up a friendship
- Grow your business
- Solve an impossible problem
- Create a new aspect of your business
- Inspire yourself and others
- Be surprisingly enjoyable
- Get yourself invited to a fun party
These 25 imaginative conversation starters are designed for the business audience: clients, prospects, employees and people you meet in networking events. They also make intelligent ice breakers – you may be tired of being asked about your favorite football team. Actually you can vary these questions to suit any conversation partner in any situation.
People may look at you strangely at first. Smile when this happens.
I have had that happen but people are almost always thrilled to talk about something other than the humidity (after they get over the surprise of an interesting question) and to share something personal.
Because these questions tend to catch people by surprise, be prepared to give them a minute to think of an answer. You can share you own answer to the question as a way of prodding their thought process.
If you keep up the practice of asking imaginative questions as I do, people will come to expect you to ask highly unusual questions so prepare for that.
25 Imaginative Conversation Starters
1. Did anyone ever give you really bad career advice? Did you know it at the time?
2. What do you most enjoy in your daily work?
3. How is your work in reality compared to what you thought it would be?
4. If you could start your career over, what is a decision you might have made differently?
5. What is your best networking tip?
6. What is it like to work at your company?
7. Who, from the present or past, would be your ideal mentor?
8. What is a meaningful compliment you’ve received lately?
9. Whose personal style do you admire?
10. What have you read lately that impressed you deeply?
11. Have you ever been so grateful for something that years later, you’re still grateful for it?
12. Please tell me something about you that is not in your official bio.
13. How do you get your best ideas? (Followed by “How do you keep track of them?”)
14. If you could magically have the time and money for this, what kind of advanced degree program would you enroll in?
15. Have you ever worked on a Frankenstein project (meaning one plagued by disaster)?
16. Do you think elegance is relevant to business today?
17. What is your favorite part of the day?
18. Outside of work, what are you an expert on?
19. Do you consider yourself an extrovert, introvert or ambivert?
20. What is a big idea are you implementing at work these days?
21. What is a fun way you know to celebrate a big win?
22. How would you describe your communication style?
23. Have you ever won an award? What was it for?
24. If you were a writer, what kind of book would you author?
25. Do you have any unusual work habits?
Print this up and bring it with you. You can practice with your team. One fun thing you can do with your team is to print up the list, cut out the questions and have everyone draw a question and answer it. I promise you’ll have fun. Please send me any stories using 25 Imaginative Conversation Starters.
Use your conversation imagination to develop your innate creativity, grow your personal influence, raise the level of positivity at work, have presence and other amazing accomplishments. And get through family gatherings.