In other words, the ability to start a conversation translates to real business.
What makes a good conversation starter?
Open-ended: A broad question typically generates a far more engaging answer than a close-ended one.
Non-routine: Breaking out of the standard weather and job-related questions will jolt the person you’re talking to out of autopilot. You’ll also make yourself more memorable.
Professional: Some topics are more suited for your friends and family than strangers or near-strangers. Your questions should never make your conversational partner uncomfortable.
Relevant: If you can, start a conversation about something timely or specific, such as your location, event, industry, jobs, or current interests. The other person will find it easier to contribute.
To start great conversations, borrow from this list of 125 conversation starters.
Conversation Starters to Use at a Conference
Conferences are chock-full of opportunities to ask thought-provoking, relevant, and engaging questions. You can discuss the specific event, its location, your industry, the other person’s objectives, what they’ve learned, and more.
Which [speaker/panel] are you most excited for?
Which [speaker/panel] did you most enjoy? Which did you find the most useful?
If you could meet one speaker from this event, who would it be?
If you could have your entire company watch a single session from this event, which would it be?
If you were giving a presentation, what would the topic be?
How does this conference compare to others you’ve attended?
If you were running this conference, what would you do differently?
What did you think of the talk [length, structure, style]?
Have you gone to this conference before? What’s changed?
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned? (If the conference isn’t over, add “so far?”)
Why did you decide to attend?
Are you planning on coming back next year?
Are you here with other people? Do you prefer going to conferences solo or with a group?
Are you doing any non-conference activities while you’re here? Alternatively: “Did you fit in any non-conference activities?”)
Is this your first time in [city]? What do you think of it?
Are you from the area? (If yes: “Do you have any [food, museum, shopping, music] recommendations?” If no: “Where are you from?”)
Do you think the conference could benefit from being a day [shorter, longer]? Why?
I wonder how many people would have attended this conference eight years ago — what do you think?
I wonder how many people will attend this conference in eight years — what do you think?
Do you go to a lot of conferences?
What’s the first conference you ever attended?
Would your company ever host a conference? (Or if they’re from a large organization: “Does your company host conferences?”)
What conference — real or imaginary — would you absolutely hate to miss?
Do you think [industry] needs more conferences? Less?
What’s the primary reason you chose to attend [conference name]?