It’s easy to talk to people you already know, but trying to strike up a conversation with a stranger can be difficult. Add in the pressure of trying to see if that stranger could be a network connection and sparking up a meaningful conversation can be downright difficult!

Making a network connection through a good conversation isn’t impossible, however, and like an awkward first date – half the battle is getting the conversation started!

If you’re having trouble thinking up conversation starters, here are a few to get your dialogue going.


As you can probably tell from all the TV shows, radio shows and podcasts, sports are a bottomless well of conversation material. If someone is wearing a Red Sox hat or University of Alabama tie, go ahead and mention it and ask how the team is doing.

If someone isn’t giving you this “in,” you could try bringing up a recent major sports event, like the Kentucky Derby or Superbowl. Just be prepared for them to tell you they aren’t into that sport or even sports in general.

One caveat: Don’t try to fake sports knowledge you don’t have and bluff your way through the conversation.

Talk About Your Job

It is completely appropriate to start a discussion on the type of work you do and what types of challenges you are currently facing. The important thing here is to make your job interesting for the other person and give them a chance to get something out of the conversation. Ideally, this should lead to the other person talking about what they do in their profession.

Take an Interest in Their Job/ Employer/ Industry

It’s also very appropriate to ask a complete stranger what they do for a living or who employs them. If you’re at an industry networking event, you will likely have a lot in common with this question. Even if you work the exact same job, there will always be differences and you will likely find those differences interesting.

Give Them a Compliment

Giving a compliment is an easy way to break the ice. You just have to make sure that it’s appropriate.

If you’re worried about appearing flirtatious, you can always compliment your surroundings, from the building you’re in to the geographic area.

Ask For Help With Something Easy

Asking for directions or suggestions is an easy ice breaker. Most people like being helpful. When you ask for help with something easy, you elevate the other person, and they are inclined to reciprocate by engaging you in conversation.

Ask Why They Are There

When you ask someone what brings them to an event, it opens up many paths of conversation. For instance, maybe they are looking to learn specific insights or see a certain person speak.

We Can Quickly Expand Your Professional Network!

When you partner with ZDA, you gain access to our own massive network. You can also expand your network through the various career opportunities we provide. Please contact our supply chain recruiters today to find out how we can support your networking and career goals.