www.wellsaid.com October 2014

"Beautiful day, isn't it? I hear they're calling for rain tomorrow."


When you meet a new acquaintance, how do you kick off the conversation?  How do you present yourself to another person for the very first time? We all know talking about the weather is a safe starter; however, Irish playwright Oscar Wilde urges us to be more creative: "Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative." To optimize that first impression, why not take a more imaginative approach--introduce a topic that's more germane and less generic. This approach opens the door to an engaging and meaningful dialogue, and presents you as a more interesting and interested conversation partner. Below are a few tips for initiating a good conversation.


Thank you for your valued readership and continued quest for communication excellence. 


Kind regards,


Seven Conversation Starters:

How To Break The Ice And Build Rapport
By Darlene Price, Well Said, Inc.
"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Humphrey Bogart, as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, 1942


What you say when you first meet someone is important because those opening words often create a first and lasting impression in the mind of your listener. Upon meeting someone, after exchanging names and "It's nice to meet you," there are four key steps to starting and sustaining an effective conversation:

i) Show sincere interest in the other person by asking appropriate questions.

ii) Practice active appreciative listening.

iii) Briefly share relevant comments about yourself.

iv) Repeat the process. 

Voil�! It could be "the beginning of a beautiful friendship" or at least a productive beneficial business relationship. Here are seven topics to help you break the ice and build rapport from the start.

1. Common Event/Meeting

Whatever occasion has brought you face to face with your new acquaintance, start there by asking open-ended questions about the event.  

--"Hi Phil, it's nice to meet you. How long have you been a member of XYZ organization?" ... "I joined five years ago. What inspired you to become a member?"

--"Sue, it's a pleasure to meet you. What do you think of the conference so far?" ... "I've heard some great presenters. What sessions have been most interesting for you?"

--"I really enjoyed the keynote speaker this morning. Did you happen to hear him?" ...  "I sure liked his story about customer loyalty. What did you think about the talk?"


2. Company/Job

In a professional setting, it's appropriate to express interest in a person's work.
--"How long have you worked for ACME?"

--"What's the scope of your responsibilities for the company?"

--"Bob mentioned you recently transferred from the sales department. How's the transition going for you?"


3. Business/Industry

Consider asking about their industry or particular area of specialty.
--"How did you get into accounting?" or "What attracted you to engineering?"

--"Have you always been in healthcare, or have you worked in other industries?"

--"How are the recent changes in government regulations affecting your business?"


4.  Location/Setting

Talk about the city or venue where you're meeting and/or the area where you're from.
--"I live in Atlanta. Where are you from?" ... "Wow! New York--what a beautiful city. How do you like living there?"

--"Sue mentioned you live in San Francisco. This is my first visit to the city. What are some of your favorite sites to visit?"

--"I read this is one of Zagat's top-rated restaurants. What's been your experience dining here?"


5.  Sports

A Harris Poll reports there are 3.5 billion soccer fans in the world. According to Nielsen, 111.5 million people in the U.S. watched the 2014 Super Bowl. Chances are, your new acquaintance may have an interest in sports.
--"You mentioned you're from Boston. Congratulations on the Red Sox winning the World Series last year. Are you a baseball fan?" 

--"College football has certainly been in the news this week. What teams are you following?"

--"I hear you're an avid golfer. What did you think of the Ryder Cup this year?"


6. Travel 

According to the U.S. Travel Association, direct spending on business and leisure travel by U.S. domestic and international travelers totaled a whopping $888 billion in 2013.  Like sports, travel is a popular topic common to many people.

--"Hi Patti. I'm doing well, thanks for asking. I just returned from a long weekend at the beach. What have you done for R&R this summer?"
--"Does your job entail a lot of travel? ... What are some of your favorite cities?"
--"So you're visiting from Phoenix--welcome. What brings you to Dallas?"


7. Hobbies/Interests

Hopefully everyone has a leisure activity or special interest outside of work, which often serves as a great conversation topic.
--"Mary tells me you're a master gardener. What do you enjoy growing?"
--"I noticed you volunteered for the company's blood drive. How did the event go?"

--"What are some of your hobbies outside of work?"

Good luck using these starters to break the ice and build rapport. What about conversation topics to avoid? To help you dodge common mistakes and embarrassing mishaps, please read my recent interview with Business Insider

"10 Things Professionals Should Never Say When They First Meet Someone"


For more tips on starting a conversation, please read another interview with Business Insider:

"21 Conversation Starters Professionals Can Use To Break The Ice"


If you would like to learn more about effectively presenting yourself and your message to others, please read my book, Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (available in hard cover and Kindle). 


Or contact me directly to schedule an in-house corporate workshop for you and your team. I would be honored to support your presentation success! 

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