Instead of mirroring responses, make them provocative and move the conversation ahead.
The mirrored example:
James: It’s a beautiful day!
John: Yes, it is a beautiful day!
This is terrible.
Here’s a much less terrible, non-mirrored convo:
James: It’s a beautiful day!
John: They say that the weather was just like this when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. If that actually happened.
While strange, it’s effective. Now James and John have something to talk about.
While you don’t need to invoke American tragedies in order to have a fun conversation, the lesson holds: Instead of just saying back whatever is said to you, advance the line of thought in an unexpected fashion, potentially making friends in your wake.
Can you recommend any unique cocktails here?
Hey, how has your day been?
All the food looks so good… I’m not sure what to get! What are you thinking? Or what have you tried?
Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?
So, how did you hear about this event?
Wow, there are a ton of people here, huh? I had no idea it would be so popular.
That drink looks good. What is it?
So, is this your first time at one of these events?
Yum, they have ____food/cocktail____! Have you ever tried it?
So, are you from the area?
Attendance looks higher than last year/month, how long have you been coming to these events?
Hmm, I’m not quite sure what that dish is… do you know?
Of course, sometimes, the easiest way to meet someone is to offer a hand and say, “Hi, I’m Vanessa.”
Is it quieter on this side of the room? I can hardly hear over there.
May as well chat if we’re in line for the bathroom/wine/food!
So, was it a pain for you to get here? Traffic was terrible for me.
Hi, I don’t know too many people here, so I wanted to introduce myself. I’m [name] and I work at [company].
So, what brought you here today?
Start out with a compliment to brighten that person’s day.
How’s your day going?
What a beautiful/cool/ugly/bizarre venue. Have you been here before?
Interesting One Line Openers:
Pardon me. Do you mind if get your opinion on something…?
Did you see that viral ____ YouTube video? It was all over my social media today.
On a scale of 1 to undrinkable, how terrible is the wine?
Compliment them or call out something that’s similar between the two of you, or something unique you notice about the person.
So, I’m not sure where to go on vacation this year. Have you taken any good vacations recently?
Hey, aren’t you friends with [fill in random name]?” Even if they don’t look familiar, this is an easy way to start conversation.
If you see a group of people that seems to be having a good time, walk over and say, “Well, you guys are certainly having more fun than the last group I was talking to.”
It is so hot (or cold) in here.
Can I confess to something…I read an article about conversation tips. They had some ridiculous suggestions…
I can’t stop eating these eggrolls. Have you tried them?
How did you hear about this event?
I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by all of the information they have been giving us. Anything that has really resonated with you?
Wow, I just can’t believe all the crazy news headlines today. What a week!
Any chance you read the news today? I missed it, and I’m dying to know what’s happening with [insert news topic here].
Did you catch the game last night?
“What’s your story?” leaves the door wide open and can get a real variety of answers.
I’m trying to make myself meet new people here instead of just talking to the usual suspects. Do you mind me saying hello and introducing myself?
How to Keep the Conversation Going:
So how do you spend your time when you aren’t __________________?
So what influenced you to make that decision?
Tell me about your business and what made you decide to become…
I have some more friends over here to introduce you all to, can I arrange a merger & acquisition of our groups?
Where did you grow up?
What drew you to that line of work?
Can you tell me a funny story about X?
What do you like about your job?
Why are you interested in working in that industry specifically?
Where do you live or where did you get this/that from?
Ask for advice on something you are working on.
Ask them what the best conversation starter they have ever heard is.
What top 5 things (outside of family) that make you come alive?
Any and all of these will work for you. Most people are so relieved to have you start and continue the conversation anyways! Remember to ask open ended questions—and avoid yes or no answers yourself. Also go for depth on interesting topics. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions and stick to one topic if it interests you.
Most importantly, be interested and interesting.