For most people, it’s hard to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but as a franchise owner, it’s a skill you rely on every day to grow your business. The franchise owner who is a master conversationalist can rule the room at a networking event. However, if networking is uncomfortable for you, then you need to get prepared and practice before you attend another event.
With that in mind, let’s take a look as some conversation starters that you can use at your next networking event so you can jumpstart your engagement with more people and extend your reach.
1. Who are you? What do you do? Where do you work?
It’s always a great idea to begin by asking the most basic questions to get to know a person. Be sure to have your 30-second elevator pitch ready to provide in return!
2. What are you trying to learn (or achieve) here today?
Everyone at an event has a reason for attending and that reason just might spark up an interesting conversation. This is a great, non-threatening ice breaker question that gives you real insight into the other person’s needs and motivations. Be prepared to explain what you want to learn or achieve as well, because the other person is highly likely to ask you the exact same question after he or she responds.
3. Which speakers have you listened to today?
If the event included sessions with expert speakers, then be sure to ask everyone you network with about those sessions. If you attended the same sessions, you can compare notes and dive deeper into the topics. If you attended different sessions, you can learn from each other!
4. What have you found most helpful (or useful) today?
This question is a great follow up to #3 above, or it can be used on its own. Find out what other people liked the most about the event. Whether they say they most enjoyed a specific speaker or the free coffee, you have something to talk about.
5. How did you make time to come here today?
Everyone is busy and it’s hard for the vast majority of people to carve time out of their schedules to attend events. This is a great question to use to start a conversation because it’s very likely that you and the other person can commiserate about your over-filled schedules. Just make sure to lead the conversation away from complaining and turn it into an opportunity to discuss productivity and time management strategies instead. A positive conversation will leave a better impression of you in the other person’s mind after the event.
6. I like your bag (or other item), where did you get it? That cake (or other item) looks great. What is it?
These two questions are similar. Both invite the other person to explain something about a choice that they made—either to buy and wear a particular item or to eat something. When you see someone at an event with a cool garment or accessory or eating or drinking something that looks delicious, ask about it.
7. Did you come by yourself or with a group?
If you’re alone and the other person is alone, then you can instantly connect and let the conversation flow. If the other person came with a group, then the size of your networking pool just got bigger! Either way, your networking efforts will pay off with an interesting conversation.
8. Have you attended this event before?
If the other person has attended the event in the past, ask for tips or comparisons to previous sessions. If the other person hasn’t attended the event in the past, ask about what their impressions of the event are and what they like or don’t like.
9. Is your Wi-Fi working?
How many events have you attended and struggled with the Wi-Fi? We’ve all experienced the problem of getting a Wi-Fi connection at a hotel or other event venue. After you get a response to your question, introduce yourself and ask another conversation starter question to keep the discussion going.
10. Do you know where the bathroom (or coat check, coffee, etc.) is?
There must be something you need, so ask someone for help finding it. Don’t make the mistake of just saying thanks and walking away! Follow up with another conversation starter question and learn more about the other person. They just might be a perfect customer for your franchise!