So many conversations start with the topic of the weather. It doesn’t matter the season, it’s always one of the number 1 topics of discussion. Recently here in Minnesota we have had several different types of weather. We have had warm and cold. We have had snow, rain, ice and mud. All of these are great conversation starters including the commonly used, “Is it (insert hot or cold here) enough for ya?” Whatever the answer is it doesn’t lead to much weight in the conversation.
We have about 7 seconds to make a first impression. Do we want our opening line to sound like a cliché or would it be better to start a conversation with some forethought and something of substance?
So here is a list of a few non cliché phrases that you can use to start a meaningful conversation*-
- What do you like best about what you do?
- You mentioned that you were in (Industry). What got you started in that direction?
- Where else do you usually network?
- What are some of your biggest challenges?
And my VERY favorite of all time…
- How can I help you?
Small talk is one thing but when you are trying to have meaningful conversations with people that stimulate more conversation or even a meeting at a later date, we want to take an interest in the other person. People in general have one common topic that is their favorite… themselves. It’s not out of selfishness. It’s truly because they are an expert on the topic. Give them a chance to share their expertise. When they realize that you are interested in them, they will take an interest in you. You begin to establish trust with your conversation partner. With trust we are able to begin to build a relationship with that person.
So next time you are with a person you’ve never met before, leave the weather out of it and go for the depth and meaningful conversation. You will make the other person feel comfortable, at ease and possibly begin a new relationship. Because really, isn’t that why we network in the first place?
*Questions taken from Networking Like a Pro by Dr. Ivan Misner