Creative conversation starter for networking events –

I hate small talk.

That’s why I tend to go 10-15 months between haircuts, because I prefer split ends to 60 minutes of thinking. “So… do you have any vacation plans for this summer?”

Small talk pissed me off because it didn’t earn much mark. I’m not ignoring the fact that it’s an important social tool… because it jumps right into it “Tell me what your deepest fear is” on a sales call may *not* get you new clients. Small talk itself isn’t bad, but when we are never progress past it, that’s what makes me want to say sick.

When you’re at an industry event, whether it’s a conference, mastermind, mixer, whatever, one of your jobs is become memories. And that’s hard to do when you’re asking the same four questions to everyone in the audience (you know the questions I’m talking about- “what do you do?”, “how long have you been in business?”, “where are you from?”, And “How long did it take you to get here?”).

Creative conversation starter for networking events |  Abby Grace photography
Real connection doesn’t happen on the surface- it happens when we want to dive deeper, to get to know the people we’re talking to beyond their job, where they live, and their years in the industry. The goal here isn’t to endure your soul or find your new BFF, but to have conversations that lead to relationships that benefit both you and the person you’re talking to.

But what if networking makes you sweat, or you’re worried about saying something corny (#itsm), or the thought of asking something OTHER than a surface question makes you want to hide in a corner?

I got you!

Here are 10 questions you can ask at your next industry event to dive deeper without attacking someone’s sense of security:

1. What’s good for you right now?

I love that it invites someone to reflect on what went well, because so often as business owners, we quickly focus on what isn’t going well. So it’s a way to bring out the positive, and chances are, they’ll ask you the same questions, and you’ll get a chance to reflect too!

2. What do you enjoy outside of work?

It’s always fun that seems to catch people off guard! Sometimes you’ll get snappy answers, but my favorite part about this question is how it opens the door to knowing someone beyond JUST what they do for a living. SO many fun bunny trails can be unlocked with this one simple question!

3. What do you expect from this conference?

This is something I love my puppeteer does whenever we get together- set an intention. It forces me to pinpoint the one specific takeaway I’m looking for, instead of touching on lots of different surface-level areas of my business. And you never know- whatever answer the other person gave? Maybe there’s something you can help with!

4. What are you currently studying?

This is a good question for reflection – sometimes we get so busy with our own business that we don’t take a step back to ask ourselves, not just what did I DO, but what did I LEARN?

5. If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?

This is just fun to break the ice – it’s less personal than the previous question, and I love hearing people answer. Mine is a toss-up between the ability to fly and the end-of-day ability to blink and end up in bed with a face wash, teeth brushed, and contact out. I don’t know why I hate getting ready for bed, but it’s so boring.

Creative conversation starter for networking events |  Abby Grace photography

6. What is the best business book you have read recently?

I’m always on the lookout for can’t-miss books that changed someone’s life, so this is great when you meet someone whose business you admire- I want to know what influenced them, what voices spoke to their head in book form.

7. How are you being challenged at this time?

Ok so this one might be a question to save like… second or third day of conference, maybe not one you ask someone within the first few minutes of meeting them. It’s not very intimate, but it’s personal. Use this one selectively- it might catch some people off guard.

8. In a movie about your life, who would you choose to play You?

This is another question that is just for fun, but does NOT give you some insight into how someone sees themselves! I love hearing people’s answers, especially if it’s someone I already know- I love hearing how their answers might be different from who I would choose to play in a movie.

9. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be? Why them?

You can substitute “anyone in history” for “anyone alive” or “any celebrity” – choose your poison. The answers of people here will surprise you and might make you rethink your own answer!

10. What made you sign up for this event?

This one goes hand in hand with question 3 of “what do you expect from this conference”. Sometimes a certain speaker they want to hear, or a friend comes along and asks this person to come along. Sometimes they’ll tell you about a certain project they’re working on and they’ve chosen this conference to help them succeed with the project, and that opens the door to asking more questions about what they’re working on, which shows how much they can possibly do. point them in another useful direction.

Even as an extrovert, I know how scary it can be to walk into a room of someone you don’t know. It may be tempting to keep small talk, because it’s low risk, and you’re already nervous.

But you’ve done the legwork of registering and physically getting into the room. So why not make the most of it by asking questions that will lead to deeper conversations, and stronger connections?

Want more content like this? Check out my podcast, The Artisan CEO!

Looking for more visual inspiration? Check out the brand’s photography archive!

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