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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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2 different but powerful conversation starters (and why they work)


With the CIPD Coaching for business performance conference on tuesday this week. I thought today's blog would be a short and simple blog on how to get the conversations started. After all, at this conference - like pretty much every conference I've been too - will challenge your ability to start conversations with strangers. Nearly 2 years ago I wrote a blog post “27 great conversation starters in any language“, in this blog I will share two more great, but unusual conversation starters.

1. What’s your biggest challenge right now?

This is a question which my great friend and networking expert, Rob Brown uses. Firstly, it sounds pretty innocuous and, therefore, seems safe to ask and answer. This is the key to good conversation starters with people you don’t know, they need to seem safe to ask and to answer. What this question does well is really open up the other person to get them talking about what really matters to them and their business. This gives you ample opportunity to get underneath the skin of them, their business, their business focus and whether you can help them or not.

2. Talk me through your story?

This is one of my favourite questions and really opens up a conversation. You’ve just met someone and wondering how to get the conversation really going. This question, once again is simple, pretty innocuous and seems very safe to ask and answer. This conversation starter gives the other person licence to talk about what is important to them and why. (It's great to ask trainers, particularly how they got into training.) It also gives you tons of relationship hooks, opportunities to build rapport with shared experiences and ways of furthering on the conversation based on what they are saying.

There are a few variations on this question, such as ‘talk me through your back story?’

In summary,

If you are wondering how to work a room and use conversation starters which really work, ditch some of the tried and tested conversation starters such as ‘what did you think of the speaker?’, and think about simple questions which encourage the other person to open up and talk.

To help you master working the room download our free 7 page guide to confidently working the room, which includes exclusive extracts from the best selling, and award-winning book on networking, ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking” (over 100+ five star reviews on amazon)”

Author Credit

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the Go-To-Expert. She is the author of the  award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’ and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 1000 professionals at every level of the UK's most ambitious professional practices.

Heather blogs regularly at Partnership Potential, How to make partner and Joined Up Networking

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Heather Townsend


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