Learn how to ‘Break the Ice’ when Networking

What are your go-to conversation starters? When you meet someone new, no matter the situation, how do you break the ice? What are the questions you ask that seem to get people talking? What interests you?

It helps to have a few questions memorized so you’re ready-to-go when you find yourself in a situation where you feel you need to say something, but you’re unsure of what to talk about. Asking questions invites people to talk about themselves, which is a great way to get a conversation started.

Classic Go-To Questions

  • “What do you do for a living?” If you work at the same company, ask about their specific role.
  • “How are you doing?” This one works well if you’ve met before.
  • “Where are you from?”
  • “What’s your go-to question?” This one lets you learn about what other people like to ask.
  • “What do you think about (specific sports team)?”

Shake It Up — Ask Something Memorable

  • “What’s one story about your hometown people would be surprised to know?”
  • “What was your first job?” You’ll get some surprising answers!
  • “What are your favorite restaurants in town? What else should I see?” This works well if you’re traveling.

Tips for Asking the Best Questions:

  • Keep it light! People usually stay away from religion, politics, and don’t get to deep. Your mileage may vary depending on your specific situation.
  • Find a way to invite another person into the conversation — this takes some pressure off you.
  • Practice active listening and relax.

If it doesn’t go anywhere, don’t take it personally. These situations can be awkward for everyone. Just take a breath and ask another question, or move on and find another person to spark a conversation with.

If the questions you come up with seem great, but don’t seem to start conversations the way you thought they might don’t be afraid to choose a new one.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

The Walter Center Success Network is a professional networking platform for the College of Arts + Sciences. By joining WCSN, you will be able to make connections with Hoosiers in your industry or city, share career advice or gain insights from experienced professionals, and access career development resources. You will also have access to WCSN Projects, which are micro internships lead by alumni. These short-term, high-level projects on various topics allow students to gain real-world skills while making meaningful connections with IU alumni.

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By Amy Cornell
Amy Cornell Senior Associate Director, Alumni Engagement Amy Cornell