Are you from Australia? Because you meet all my koalifications. 

Conversation starters like the one above give me joy daily. I follow Tinder Nightmares, an Instagram account surfacing real stories from real users. But deep behind the comedy of these sometimes desperate attempts to trigger a relationship is a real issue ...

Starting conversations is difficult. And awkward. And just all around uncomfortable. 

While I may not be a Tinder user, I can relate to the struggle of starting a conversation at conferences, social events, and even internal company parties. Even when I'm speaking at conferences, I often hide in a corner avoiding the pre-presentation cocktail hour until it's my time to get up and speak. 

To help poor souls like myself, I reached out to some of the most well-connected folks I know. In the presentation below, you'll find 22 unique conversation starters - which means If you're looking for the generic, "so what brings you to this conference?" you've come to the wrong place. 

 

1. "Have you found a place to put your coats / bags, or are we just holding on to them?"

2. "Are you Italian?"

People always want to know why you think they’re Italian. This anonymous contribution comes from someone who says the line “does wonders on Tinder.” That must mean it works at conferences, too, right?

3. "After this, I'm thinking of flying to France, Hong Kong, or Rio. Which should I go to? Why?"
Contributed by: Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer

4. "Are any of you experiencing issues connecting to the Wi-Fi?"

I mean, the answer is almost always ... "YES."

5. One time I introduced myself to someone & we wound up helping each other a ton. Let's make it round two? 
Contributed by: Matt Bilotti, Student Investor

6. "Mind if I squeeze in and share this cocktail table?"

While this yields a one-word response, it serves as a staring point for approaching someone. 

7. "That's a sweet startup tee. I think I've heard of that company ..."
Contributed by: Harvey Simmons, Marketer & Product Evangelist

8. "Is your phone dying too? There's got to be somewhere to charge this."

Lingering around a charging station is also a great way to meet others doing the same. 

9. "I like your bag. Where is it from?"
Contributed by: Sasha Hoffman, Entrepreneur & Biz Dev

10. "Know anywhere I can get some good food or drinks around here?"

 Even when the answer is “no,” we may find  a new pal to go on a drink-finding journey with. 

11. I'll be honest, the only person I know here is the bartender, and I just met him. Mind if I introduce myself?

12. Looks like I'm not the only crazy chick who showed up in heels. How are you holding up all day?

13. Gotta love  bathroom wait lines, am I right?

No. No one loves these lines, but might as well chit chat while we wait.

14. I'm tired of chatting with my colleagues - I see ‘em all the time. What are you all  talking about?
Credit: Pete Holmes

15. I'm not sure I knew what to expect when I came here. Have you been before?
Contributed by: Meghan Anderson, Product Marketing Director

16. "How are you guys getting to the next event? Want to share a cab?"

Oftentimes, people don’t have a plan yet. Offer a ride-share and secure yourself a set time  to connect with them.

17. "Have you  downloaded the  mobile app? Which sessions have you selected through it?"
Contributed by: Rachel Sprung, Product Marketing Manager

18. "If there’s one question you don’t want me to ask because you’re sick of answering it, what would that be?
Credit: Conversation Arts

19. "You guys look like you're having the  most fun here, mind  if I join this conversation?"
Contributed by: Corey Eridon, Managing Editor

20. "Is it quieter on  this side of the  room? I can hardly hear over there."
Credit: The Muse

21. "Have you checked out [XYZ]  app? What did  you think?"
Contributed by: Brian Balfour, VP of Growth

Simply replace [XYZ] with the hottest app of that year - Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc.

22. Man, I hate networking.

Might as well start with the one thing just about  every attendee has in common. ;)

If you got to the end of the post, you may enjoy hearing that upon using the "koalifications" pick-up line on my best friend, she responded with, "yours are irrelephant." 

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Originally published Mar 11, 2015 3:07:00 PM, updated June 25 2019

Topics:

Networking for Sales