The Best Conversation Starters

There are many conversation starters that work. In fact, I believe you can start a conversation with almost anything.

I recently started a conversation by asking a person if they know how to stop hiccups, because for some reason I had begun to hiccup. It all went naturally from there simply because I was curious, talkative and genuine.

However, the best conversation starters don’t just work, but they work incredibly well and no matter who the person you wanna talk with is, they will rarely fail you.

The best conversation starters are the ones you can rely one to start the conversation, engage the other person and make an impression, and they also making it easy to keep the chat going from there.

Based on my experience as a social confidence coach and a passionate about social dynamics, I concluded there are 4 qualities that the best conversation starters all have, and these 4 qualities are what makes them so great.

  1. They are personal. Forget about commenting about the weather and stuff like that. Go with conversation starters that relate to the other person. That way you get to learn something about that person, they’ll engage in the conversation more, and you’ll have more paths to take the conversation on from there.
  2. They’re not too personal. At the same time, it’s not the best idea to start a conversation with a person you don’t know by asking them something very personal, like “Do you have any insecurities?” That’s too forward and it has more chances to inhibit the other person rather than make them to open up.
  3. They reflect a genuine interest. Never ask or comment about anything you don’t really care about. Because if you don’t care about it, chances are you’re not gonna know how to keep the conversation going from there, or you’ll take it on a path that doesn’t really interest you.
  4. They are delivered with confidence. If you are self-assured when you start a conversation, you will make a good impression and suck the other person into the conversation. Confidence is like a magnet and it’s one of the best qualities you can convey to others from the get go.

That’s it. Not all conversation starters fit these criteria, but you can find many of them that do.

My advice is to go from here and come up with your own conversation starters based on these 4 criteria. It would be ineffective and condescending of me to actually tell you what conversation starters to use.

The best conversation starters vary based on your real interests. I will give you some examples though of conversation starters that I use and work really well, just for inspiration.

“How was your day/evening/weekend?” I love to ask people about this and learn about the things they’ve done recently. I try to relate what they say and also talk about the things I did, and the conversation moves on from there.

“What do you do?” I’m always interested in what a person does for a living and I often ask about this. In my experience, it’s an awesome conversation thread to go on with most people.

“That’s a nice shirt/suit/pair of glasses. Where did you get them?” Since I’m interested in style, I like to notice cool things in other people’s appearance and comment on them. It’s pretty easy for me from there to make the conversation take off.

As you can see, every conversation starter is a good match with my interests, and it’s also personal, but not too personal. This is the recipe I encourage you to follow.

Also, always keep in mind that when it comes to making conversation, the way you talk is often much more important that what you actually say. If you are confident and at ease, people will love talking with you and what you say becomes secondary.

If you lack conversation confidence, check out this presentation right now. It’s a presentation I created that shows you precisely where conversation confidence comes from and what are the steps to developing it. I’m sure you’ll find it very useful.

Equipped with the best conversation starters, you will stand out from the pack. You will find it easier to make conversation and astonish others. You will have that extra leverage that can make your social life infinitely better.

Small Talk Conversation Starters

Small talk is a common presence in social settings. Even the very best friendships, partnerships or relationships often start out with simple small talk, which then evolves into deeper conversation and connects individuals emotionally.

Small talk conversation starters play an important role here, because they get the dialogue going. Equipped with a good understanding of the art of making small talk and a few good small talk conversation starters, you can converse with anybody.

The 3 Traits of Small Talk Conversation Starters

Small talk conversation starters that work well, all share three key traits. Grasp these traits and you’ll find it easy to come up with your own small talk conversation starters and to adapt them to the context.

  1. They are not too intrusive. Small talk overall is not very intrusive. It’s light, social conversation. So it makes sense for the conversation starters you use to not be very intrusive either.
  2. They are authentic. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s not a good idea to use convo starters that take a conversation in a direction you’re not really interested in; even if it is just small talk.
  3. They are adapted. Don’t go running around with one conversation starter and use it to initiate small talk everywhere. Adapt your approach so it makes sense in the social context you’re in.

10 Conversation Starters for Small Talk

Myself and many of my coaching clients have tested numerous small talk conversation starters, and I’m going to share with you 10 of the best ones. Correlate these starters with your interests and the social context, and you can confidently rely on them.

1. “What do you think of this event/ party/ gathering?” – Simple and straightforward.

2. “Who do you know here?” – Also a good way to meet more people and make new friends.

3. “What field are you in?” – Works great at networking and business events.

4. “Have you ever been to this place before?” – Terrific starter if you like the location you’re at.

5. “That’s a nice watch. Where did you get it?” – Also works well for other accessories or clothing items.

6. “Tell me about yourself.” – A nice, broad request. It can really get the other person talking.

7. “Have you heard about (major and recent event)?” – A bit of talk about the latest news never hurts.

8. “Where are you from?” – An excellent conversation starter for events with people from multiple cities or countries.

9. “How is your day going?” – Kickoff the chat by getting the other person to share their day.

10. “What are you drinking?” – A particularly good one if you have an interest in drinks or drinking.

Use these simple and effective conversation starters when you’re making small talk, and you’ll get the conversational ball rolling.

I know that small talk may seem pointless, but it is a valuable part of social interactions, especially with new people. It’s a way to test the waters and to engage another person. Know how to make small talk and how to move beyond it, and you’ll actually enjoy it.

How to Improve Your Conversation Skills

Small but significant improvements such as getting good conversation starters can noticeably enhance your social life. However, it’s important to realize that they’re not in and of themselves a complete solution.

Working as a communication coach, one thing that became obvious to me is that most people who could benefit from learning how to start a conversation effectively also have other sticking points in the area of conversation skills they need to address.

Once they learn how to start a conversation, they need to learn how to keep it going, how to make small talk, how to express themselves authentically or how to create a connection with others. They often need to work on their conversation skills as a whole.

If this is the case for you, it’s time to consider going beyond conversation starters and figuring out the best ways to improve your conversation skills. Here are the methods I believe to be the most helpful:

1. Go Out, Get Social

It’s tempting to search for ways to improve your conversation skills that don’t demand engaging in conversations with people, so that when you do engage, you impress them with your masterful conversation skills from the get go.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. In order to improve your conversation skills, the single most important thing you can do is to go out more and socialize more.

Your ability to make masterful conversation develops through persistent practice more than anything else. As you meet people, initiate conversations and always seek to make better conversation, you slowly but surely improve in this area.

2. Model Good Conversationalists

Another thing that will help you immensely is to study the conversational style of successful conversationalists. The key idea here is not to clone them, but to pick bits and pieces from their conversational mannerisms and implement them in your own conversational style.

You can start by analyzing charismatic characters in movies or books from the comfort of your own home, but eventually you need to study real-life individuals with good conversational skills from a close proximity. Modeling these persons will provide a huge benefit for you.

3. Learn Principles and Techniques

An entire industry exists that’s focused on helping people become better conversationalists and enrich their social life. Some of the ideas popularized in this industry are hooey, but some of them have a lot of value and work wonders in practice.

There is no point in reinventing the wheel when others have done a lot of the work for you. The least you can do is to pick up a few good books on the topics of conversation skills, learn specific principles and techniques and put them into practice. If you want more, consider courses and training on this topic.

4. Have a System for Practice

There are two reasons why many people fail at improving their conversation skills: they either apply corny and ineffective ideas, or they don’t have a system to practice and make progress.

This second point means that people will pick a few tips, practice them a few times and then give up. You need a better approach to see visible improvements in the way you converse with others. You need to pick specific improvements goals for yourself, to set daily practice activities and to do these activities.

More than anything else, you want to act more than you read, and you want to do it methodically. Your skills develop by taking massive action in small, logical steps. If you want to move from using good conversation starters to charming people conversationally, this is the mindset you want to be in.

Using Context to Find Conversation Starters

When you want to find good conversation starters to use, one of the best places to start looking is the very context you’re in. Open your eyes and your mind, and you’ll discover all sorts of ways to start conversations provided by this context, whether it’s a party, a conference or a date.

The Power of Contextual Conversation Starters

I like to use conversation starters based on the context because I find them smooth and effective. They’re not personal and intrusive as “What do you do for a living?” but they’re also not impersonal and shallow as “What time is it?”

I also like contextual conversation starters because they’re adapted to the environment and thus, they make a lot of sense. When you’re using a contextual conversation starter, you’re not employing a memorized line robotically; you are using your head to come up with a good approach based on the context.

Where, Who and What

Using context to initiate conversations starts with noticing the context and asking yourself some questions about it. As you answer your own questions, you’ll also discover good conversation starters to employ.

Socializing and providing communication coaching, I discovered there are three key questions to ask yourself:

  1. Where? (The Location). Thus, you can come up with conversation starters such as: “What do you think of this club?”, “What is it like to work here?
  2. Who? (The People). Thus, you can come up with conversation starters such as: “What did you think of the speaker?”, “Who are you here with?”
  3. What? (The Event). Thus, you can come up with conversation starters such as: “What do you think of the party?”, “Have you been to similar conferences before?

Clutching On To the Details

Besides the general characteristics of the context (location, people and event) there are also specific details that can provide great conversation starters.

This is why I encourage you to be aware of what’s going on in your environment and notice the little details. As you do so, you’ll find opportunities to initiate conversations.

I often start conversations at events where there is a Swedish buffet while picking up some food at the buffet table, by making a honest comment about the food to the person next to me in line. If that person is eager to respond with a comment of their own, the conversation is on.

I recently kicked off a conversation on a train with the girl who sat next to me by commenting about the train conductor who seemed drunk to me and asking her opinion about this issue. We joked about it a bit, and the rest of our chat happened naturally from there.

Using context to find conversation starters is, in my view, a much finer art than simply choosing randomly a convo starter from your bag of tricks. It reflects much finer social calibration and it keeps you on your toes. For this reason, it is something I highly recommend you to master.

Business Conversation Starters

From my perspective, success in the business world depends as much on your ability to build trust-based relationships with other people as it does on delivering quality results.

The Business Conversation Challenge

Conversation is a natural tool to connect with people in the business world and build trust.

However, it can be tricky to kickoff a conversation with a client, a colleague or any other person in a professional context. The norms that regulate interactions in the business world seem to be somewhat slippery and this makes it harder to find the proper business conversation starters.

For example, I notice many people have a hard time figuring out if it’s appropriate or not to start a conversation with a client on a personal level, talking about family or hobbies.

Business Conversations Starters Ideas

For this reason, I’m presenting you with some of my top ideas for business conversation starters:

1. Comment clothing. Many people in the business world put a lot of time and effort in dressing well, especially when they’re going to a business meeting.

One of the best things you can do when starting an interaction is to notice what the other person is wearing and make a positive, honest comment on their clothes as a whole or one particular item. You can easily kickoff the conversation this way.

2. Use the context. The place you’re in, the event you’re at, these will often provide you with good conversation starters.

If you’re at a conference, you can initiate a conversation with someone by asking them something related to the conference, such as: “What do you think of the speakers so far?” If you’re in your client’s office, look around and if something makes an impression on you, you can make a comment about it.

3. Explore the job. When I’m meeting a person for the first time in a professional context, I will often ask them questions about their job.

I’ll usually start with “What do you do for a living?” if I don’t know that yet, and I may continue with questions such as “How did you get into this field?” or “What do you do precisely in this job?” These are surefire business conversation starters.

4. Explore the organization. A good alternative to asking about the other person’s job at the beginning of a conversation is asking about the company or organization they work for.

Consider questions such as “How did you start working in this company?” or “What’s the work environment here like, from your perspective?”

5. Explore the passing time. If this is not the first time you’ve met a person, it can be a good idea to initiate the conversations by finding out what happened in this person’s professional life in the time that has passed from your last meeting.

Questions such as “What have you been involved in lately?” or “What have you been doing since we’ve last met?” can work wonders.

6. Go personal. If you’re talking with a person you’ve met before and you know some things about their personal life as well, you can initiate a conversation talking about their personal life.

You may ask them “How’s the family”, “How are your tennis lessons going?” anything you’ve talked about before and you’re authentically interested in.

Last but not least, keep in mind that although business conversation can have some important stakes involved, you don’t want to blow its meaning out of proportion. A conversation is a conversation. Avoid over-strategizing it and have some fun with it.

Conversation Starters for Friends You Haven’t Seen In a Long Time

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in the subway station, waiting for a train, and you run into an old friend from high school whom you haven’t seen for about 4 years.

Unless you’ve recently moved on the other side of the planet, chances are something like this happens to you every once in a while.

The Old Friends Paradox

I find that many people struggle to start a conversation with an old friend they haven’t seen for a while. They may have been really close once but as the time passed, the emotional connection faded, and the common ground between them narrowed.

You have different lives now; you’re not used with seeing each other anymore. This can create an awkward feeling and a lack of momentum when meeting an old friend, either intentionally or by accident.

Conversation Starters for Old Friends

In such contexts, there are always good conversation starters you can rely on to get the conversation going. Here are some of the most valuable conversation starters for friends you haven’t seen in a long time:

1. How have you been? What have you done? Conversations with old friends are a good opportunity to catch up on things. Since a lot of time has passed since you’ve last seen each other, use conversation starters in the form of questions about what happened in the friends’ life during this time.

2. Job and family. If you want to use more specific questions to find out about your old friend’s life, there are two evergreen areas which you can explore: the job and the family. Consider question such as: “Where do you work?”, “What do you do?”, “What’s that like?”, “Are you in a relationships?”, “Do you have kids?” etc.

3. The good old days. I’m not a big fan of dwelling on the past, but every once in a while, it’s good to remember the fun shared experiences from the past with an old friend from that past. It brings that sense of bonding back. So, use convo starters in the form of “Do you remember when…?

4. The common acquaintances. I am also not a big fan of talking about other people’s lives. However, meeting an old friend can be a good opportunity to find out about other friends or acquaintances you both know which you’ve lost touch with. Just make sure you ask about the lives of people you actually give a damn about.

5. Remember old dreams. On out of the box way to initiate a conversation with an old friend is to ask them about the dreams you know they had in the old days and what’s going on with them right now. For example: “I know you wanted to have you own business in high school. How’s that going?

Such questions can be tricky because you may dig up a bad memory of an abandoned dream, but they can also be a chance to find out some good news and build some connection. I think it’s definitely worth trying this approach.

I know many cases when old friendships got brought to live again by one interaction after a long time and both parts were very excited about this. If this doesn’t happen, at least you still get a positive, enjoyable conversation.

How to Deliver a Conversation Starter with Style

You’ve probably heard it said before that it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Well, when it comes to starting a conversation, it applies more than ever. This doesn’t mean what you say doesn’t matter. However, it is mostly how you say it that communicates your attitude.

There is some famous research done by psychologist Albert Mehrabian which points out that our emotions and attitudes are communicated only 7% through words, 38% through the qualities of your voice, and an amazing 55% though your body language.

I believe that the best attitude that you can communicate when delivering a conversation starter is being relaxed, friendly and confident. People will tend to respond a lot better to other people with this attitude, no matter what conversation starters they use.

There are 5 ideas I think are important to apply when delivering a conversation starter, in order to get the best reactions possible:

1. Speak fluently. You don’t want to stutter or stumble over your own words when delivering conversation starters. Make sure that once you chose a conversation starter, you don’t switch to another one in your head, fearing you didn’t pick the proper one. What’s done is done: once you chose what to say, say it in clear, straightforward way.

2. Speak slowly and loud. It often happens for a person to be somewhat nervous when initiating a conversation. It sometimes happens for a person to be shy. Both these things tend to make one speak fast and in a low voice. If this is the case for you, consciously do the opposite instead: use a medium to slow speaking speed and a medium to high speaking volume.

3. Orient yourself towards the other person. When you start a conversation, you want the other person to know you intend to have a conversation with them and to get them committed in it. You do this by orienting your body and your head towards the person you’re talking with, maybe at a slight angle. I know there is also this popular idea of talking over your shoulder when initiating a conversation, but I’m not a fan of it.

4. Keep eye contact. Looking at the person you’re talking with is a basic sign of respect and confidence. It also keeps the other person interested in listening to you and talking with you. There is no need to stare at the other person, but do keep eye contact with them about 2/3 of the time when kicking off a conversation.

5. Shut up. After you use a conversation starter to initiate a conversation, you want to let the other person take it from there: answer your question, make a comment, whatever. You don’t want to go: “What do you think about this party?… I mean, do you like it? Is it like you expected?… I love it! It’s the coolest party I’ve been to lately…

Use your conversation starter, then shut up. Even if the other person is slow to pick up the conversation, have patience and give them some time. Remember it’s a dialog, not a monologue.

Delivering a convo starter with style is a reflection of your people skills and your confidence level. You can improve how you deliver conversation starters by working directly on your body language and voice, but keep in mind that if you want to go to the next level, you’ll need to work on your people skills and confidence as a whole.

Conversation Starters for a Company Party

Especially in certain periods of the year, company parties are everywhere: your company, clients’ companies, suppliers’ companies etc. Many people find company parties boring and only attend them if the feel obligated to do so.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A company party can be a great opportunity to meet new people and strengthen relationships with people you appreciate, to network and have fun at the same time; particularly if you know some good conversation starters.

The Professional-Personal Mix

People often feel confused about starting and having conversations at a company party because they don’t know if it’s best to treat them in a more personal or a more business way in terms of topics.

Considering it’s the party of a company, starting a conversation talking about business related topics is perfectly OK: the job, the latest business projects and the company.

On the other hand, keep in mind that it is a party after all and people attending it often like to forget about business for a while. For this reason, it’s best not to talk about professional stuff the whole time and eventually transition to personal topics. It is also fine to use convo starters that take the conversation directly to personal topics.

Conversation Starters Ideas

Let’s take things one step further with some smart ideas for conversation starters which you can use at company parties:

1. “How’s work going for you?” A simple, straightforward, work related conversation starter which work great, unless the other person is very shy or hates their work.

2. Ask about specific projects – If you want a more specific approach, use more specific questions such as “What projects have you been working on lately?” or “How is project X going?”

3. Give a compliment – It can be about the person’s choice of clothes for the party, their recent promotion, their success in a challenging project, anything you can honestly compliment.

4. Make a comment about company parties – Every person who has attended at least a couple of them has some thoughts about them. Don’t be afraid to admit you find most company parties boring but you hope this one will be fun. This can be a good way to build some rapport.

5. Latch on the time of the year – Most company parties are near Easter, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve. So, ask questions about preparations and celebration of that particular event.

6. “How are things outside work going for you?” – Get personal and get to know the other person with their life outside of work.

7. “Married? / Kids? / Plans in this area?” – If you like to talk about family, do use this kind of conversation starters. Many people enjoy talking about their family; it’s a very warm topic.

8. “Do you believe the people who are promoted in a / this company are the people who fit in?” – I love to start conversations using business related opinion openers. Just make sure you’re actually interested in the opinion you’re asking for.

These are just some ideas. I’m sure you can find many more good conversation starters for a company party as long as you understand the basic principle. Good luck with them and remember to enjoy the ride!

Funny Conversation Starters

I believe one of the most important qualities that good conversations have is that they’re fun. They pull you in through their joyful and positive aura. If you’re gonna have a fun conversation, you might as well start it in a funny way.

Not all conversations are proper to be initiated using funny conversation starters or any funny conversation starter; this does require calibration. Nevertheless, I find that people in general are much more hesitant to use funny conversation starters than it’s warranted.

The point is not to force yourself to be funny, but to permit yourself to be funny. This applies especially in the beginning of a conversation, when it’s less probable for this to happen.

20 Funny Conversation Starters

To help you kick off conversations in a humorous way, here are 20 funny conversation starters. For this round, I’ll only stick to question-type convo starters:

“How did you find out there is no Santa? You did find out, didn’t you?” (I often ask this; I really wanna know!)

1. “What do you think about laissez faire capitalism?”

2. “Do you know any good conversation starters?”

3. “What do you wanna be when you grow up? (Use it with adults)

4. “Are you a good girl/ nice guy or a bad girl/ bad boy?”

5. “What do you think about raising ostriches?”

6. “Do you have any food with you? I’m hungry!”

7. “Heard any good jokes lately?”

8. “Do you think good girls go to Heaven?”

9. “What do you think you were in a past life?”

10. “What was the last stupid thing you did?”

11. “What do you have a weak spot for?”

12. “What’s your opinion about black nails on men?”

13. “What did you wanna be when you were 5?”

14. “What’s your favorite color?”

15. “What’s the yuckiest food you ever tasted?

16. “What do you do when you’re home alone and the power goes out?” (I love this one!)

17. “If you could, what superhero would you want to be?”

18. “Read any scandalous news lately?”

19. “What’s the best present you’ve ever received?”

20. “Do you think they’ll make another Batman movie?”

In my view, initiating conversations in a funny, relaxed way is one of the most interesting people skills you can master. A conversation started with a laugh is a conversation with a lot of potential. Keep this in mind as encouragement to yourself to employ funny conversation starters.

First Date Conversation Starters

Have you noticed how first dates make most people somewhat nervous? Have you noticed how we sometimes find it difficult to kick off a conversation on a date? This is where first date conversation starters can be of good use.

First Date Conversation Guidelines

Here are, from my perspective, the general rules for using first date conversation starters:

  • It is OK to start the conversation at a personal level, ask the other person about themselves and talk about yourself. After all, the point of a first date is to get to know each other. It is also not obligatory to start at a personal level.
  • It is best to start the conversation light. Don’t be afraid to ask personal questions, but don’t ask the other person about their mission in life right off the bat either.
  • Try not to make your first date conversation starters sound contrived and weird. A normal, relaxed start to a first date is the best start.

10 Good First Date Conversation Starters

Besides applying these guidelines, what can further help you is knowing a few good conversation starters from which you can choose. Here are 10 of them:

Comment on the clothes and accessories. Your date probably took a lot of time to dress and get ready for the date; you might as well be romantic and reward that. Take a moment to notice their clothes and accessories, and make an honest compliment on something you like.

Comment on the date location. The place where you’re having the date is another good conversation starter. Consider questions like: “Have you ever been here before?” or “What do you think of this place?

Review the day so far. One of my favorite first date conversation starters is asking: “How was your day?” This works great since most dates take place in the evening. Also, be ready to share some of your day.

Ask them about a fun thing they did recently. Fun conversations best start by talking about fun things. Get the other person to think and talk about something fun they did recently, and I bet it will put a smile on both your faces.

Pick up the thread of a previous conversation. If this is your first date but not the first time you’ve talked, a great way to start the conversation is to remember the subject of an interesting conversation you had last time and pick it up from there.

Pick up on something you know about the person. An alternative similar to the one above is to think of something you already know about your date which seems interesting and start from there: “So, you’re a marine biologist. What’s that like?

Ask them where they usually go out. Talking about favorite clubs, bars, restaurants, coffee shops and places to hang out is often a good conversation starter; especially if you are both active and sociable people.

Ask them what they do in their free time. Hobbies and free time activities are another alternative for a first date conversation starter. There is usually a lot to talk about on these subjects, even if you’re both kind of workaholics.

Ask them what they do for a living. Speaking of workaholics, convo starters related to current jobs never get old. If you already know what the other person does for a living, consider asking for specific details about that job.

Ask them about themselves. This question is a particularly good start to a romantic first date. It opens up the conversation and it creates so many conversation possibilities on a first date that I sometimes wonder why there isn’t a law which makes it mandatory.

Last but not least, keep in mind that first dates are meant to be fun, exciting and intimate moments. If you’re spending too much time thinking about first date conversation starters and stressing to discover the perfect one, you’re missing out on a great experience.