How to Start a Conversation

25 Perfect Phrases for Starting a Business Conversation

Have you ever wondered how to start a business conversation?

Conversation is the art of combining questions, listening, and self-disclosure so that two strangers can build a common ground between them. Be attentive, be curious, and be sincere. To learn more about the basics of conversation making listen to my show The Public Speaker: Quick and Dirty Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills.

If you enjoyed the audio program, do me a favor and leave a comment on the “other blog” or you could leave one here. After you’ve learned the basics you can then use this list of questions to help formulate your own personal top 10.

Here are my 25 phrases you can use to start a business conversation:

General Business Topics:

1. Tell me about your company/institution/school.
(This way you get a general idea of how your might help.)
2. Tell me about your current role?
(This helps you to understand the perspective of the person you are talking with.)
3. Do you like what you are doing?
(This gives you a measure of optimism in general.)
4. What specifically do you love/like about your work?
(This helps to understand the motivations of the person better.)
5. What are some of your biggest challenges facing you right now?
(This helps you to see how you might help address some of the top challenges.)
6. What are you passionate about? (This is my personal favorite question!)
(Notice if they give you a business response or personal response. This is just to get to know the person a little better and perhaps give you something to build common ground.)
7. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
(This is just to get to know the person a little better and help build common ground.)

At an event:

8. I didn’t expect so many people to be here, you?
(This is simply small talk, you’ll need some back-up if this is a non-starter.)
9. The first speaker had some interesting ideas, what did you think?
10. This event has been great so far for me, how about for you?
11. I am so glad I finally got the chance to come here. This is my first time. You?
12. Which workshop/speaker have you found the most interesting/helpful?
13. This session is really crowded. What made you decide to choose this session?

Compliment Approach: (However, it is critical that you are sincere.)

14. That laptop bag looks really sturdy…you like it?
15. I read your website/blog/paper—really interesting. Can you tell me more about…
16. Heard about your new position, congratulations…what do you think will be your biggest challenges?
17. Great (watch/tie/shoes/scarf/jewelry). I bet there’s a story behind that. Where did you get?

Advice Approach:

18. Which one (food/drink/session/etc) do you suggest?
19. Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
20. What do you think about X (fill in anything relevant)?

Popular Culture Approach:

21. What do you think about social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook?
22. What do you think about microblogging like Twitter and Plurk?
23. Are you a mac or PC fan?
24. Are you a Lost fan? What’s your theory?
25. What do you think gas and oil prices will be in six months?

Need your help!

I’d like to expand this list and would LOVE YOUR HELP! Please add in the comments your favorite conversation starters. Let us know why you like the ones you use! Thanks for reading and hopefully contributing below. It’ll just take a second, promise.

If you found this post useful, you may also enjoy:

How to Introduce Yourself

How do you Start a Conversation?

How to Expand your Business through Public Speaking

Tips for Small Business Owners

How to get rid of Ums and Ahs

There are 4 comments .

Bruce in Iloilo —

Two of my favorites:

How long have you been doing that?

How did you get into doing that?

You learn a bit more about their history which might be helpful and more interesting, and you get off the business into the personal which might give you more connections, such as schools, towns lived in, family, countries visited, etc.

People like to talk about themselves, especially if it is something they are passionate about. Such questions allows them to talk about their passion subjects, or duck the question with a simple “since school” or “always were interested.

Reply »
Prakash —

I approach it differently for men and women. I had good success with women when I listened more and kept questions short.

For men, the more I asked the more they assumed that I had some idea on the subject and was keen to know about them.

Reply »

I’m going to use this with my ESL Business Conversation Skills Students.

Reply »

I’m going to use this with my ESL Business Conversation Skills Students.

Reply »

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