Conversation Starters To Jumpstart Business Relationships

conversation starters to jumpstart business relationships networking

When it comes to achieving business success, building relationships means everything. As they say, it’s not what you know, it is who you know. Successfully navigating the social dance of business networking can open doors that lead to great opportunities. 

But all hinges on that opening conversation. First impressions are important. Breaking the ice is essential. So how do you increase your chances of success? 

While there is no magic solution for paving the way with smooth talk and witty banter, there are certain topics that have a natural advantage in starting good conversations. If you can engage with strangers over one or more of the following subjects, you will be well on your way to building the relationships necessary to achieve optimum success: 


Are you a sports fan? Do you know the best players by name, whether they play for your city or not? If so, consider using that to your advantage, especially when networking in other cities. Whether it is talking about Major League Baseball lines heading into the playoffs or expectations regarding the upcoming football season, two sports fans will always have plenty to talk about. By the time the conversation is over, you will have undoubtedly formed a working relationship with someone new. 


If you find yourself facing framed photos of someone’s family - typically in their office - consider it an opportunity to start a meaningful conversation. Politely inquire about the individuals seen in the photos. While you don’t want to intrude on someone’s personal life, they obviously feel comfortable with showing off their loved ones, making it fair game for a conversation. Chances are they will be happy to talk about their kids and grandkids and will ask about your family in return. It creates a natural conversation that leads to knowing more about each other going forward. 


Conversations centered on business as usual - while straightforward and expected - never fail to bring business professionals closer together. This is especially true if you are able to express genuine enthusiasm about the trade you are in; seasoned professionals are always happy to talk shop since they rarely get the chance to do so with strangers. By engaging someone in conversation over the ins and outs of their business, you will win them over simply by letting them geek out over their passion. You also get to learn along the way, which helps as well. 


Vacations and other travel experiences are often the highlights of our lives. We will always remember that trip to the Caribbean in our early 20s or the honeymoon adventure in Cambodia. If the topic of travel comes up, press the issue to get them talking about the places they have gone and hope to visit someday. Again, the ball will probably be returned, allowing you to talk about your own travel experiences. By the time it is all over, you will each have a newfound sense of the other’s scope of experience and worldview. 


Everyone in business is working towards one or more goals. Whether it is a business success or personal accomplishments, we are reluctant to talk about ourselves in that regard unless the topic comes up in conversation. By inquiring about a business professional’s goals in life, you will give them the green light to talk about the things that matter most. Whether they realize it or not, such a discussion will preserve you in their memory going forward and vice versa. When you meet them again in five years, a refresher question regarding their goals will instantly remind them of the previous conversation and potentially open doors for you going forward. 


Cracking jokes to break the ice can be tricky these days. There are many topics and themes that are considered off-limits due to the offensive implications and controversial nature of the subject matter. As a general rule of thumb you should avoid jokes that could be divisive or insensitive, especially if they could get you in real trouble. But if you sense the chance to make a witty observation or clever joke, go for it! Laughter brings people together more than anything else. Being recognized as a funny person will earn you a badge you can wear proudly as you advance your career. 

Final Thoughts For Creative Conversations

Do you desire access to a network of business professionals? If so, it comes down to your ability to develop meaningful relationships. It all starts with a single conversation, so make it a good one. You don't get a second chance to make a good first impression!

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