I’m a total introvert. That does not mean I don’t like talking to people, but it does mean I don’t actually start a lot of conversations. If you approached me and started a conversation though, I’d be happy to talk to you. The point is, I know it can be a bit hard to start a conversation, and it’s particularly hard in another language.
In this post, I’ll outline a few ways to start a conversation in business and semi-casual situations so that you can always be confident you’re saying the right thing.
Keep in mind, these are just a few examples. You should always try to choose the right thing for your situation.
1. Start with a compliment:
Take care! Compliments can be friendly, but don’t get too personal. Complimenting someone’s skirt might sound friendly from another woman, but that might be too casual. From a guy, it could sound creepy. So, use your best judgement.
- Your offices are great. How long have you been in this building?
- Everyone has been so friendly. Thank you for having me.
- I caught your presentation. You made some interesting points.
2. Ask open-ended questions and avoid yes/no questions which can quickly end a conversation.
- What brings you to the event today?
- How did you feel about the last presenter?
- Where did you hear about our company?
3. Share something interesting about yourself:
- I came in from California for this event.
- Last year, I saw this presenter speak in London.
- I actually know the woman who designed your watch.
4. Find common ground:
- I noticed you’re wearing a Garmin watch. I have one too.
- I heard you mention you’re interested in M&A. What do you think about the Inatech / Vandalay merger?
- I’m always interested in new investment opportunities. What startups are you interested in?
5. Comment on the situation:
- This is quite the event, isn’t it?
- I’m glad we can enjoy the cherry blossoms while they last.
- The coffee’s not bad. Have you tried it?
This is a small sampling of things to say to start a conversation. Next, let’s practice what you’ve learned in class!