What are good ice-breakers to get conversation started?

To some people it comes very natural to approach others, but not everybody’s comfortable with meeting new people and some may find it a bit awkward to walk up to someone you’ve never met before and start a conversation.

Especially at events it’s essential to be good at this if you want to benefit as much as possible networking-wise.
So, are there some good basic principles to use when approaching people at events - i.e. simple “ice-breakers” that work to join/start the conversation really well?


As a basic principle it's important to be positive and interested in the people you meet.
I have good experience with ice-breaking questions such as; "What's your aim attending this event?", "What are your focus areas right now?", "Are you looking for something particular by attending this event?", "Are there something I can help you to find?" - and then it's important to reflect on the answers the person give and ask supplementing questions such as; "do you need new contacts within that area?", "can I introduce you to some in my network who have that knowledge?", "maybe we should meet and exchange knowledge on that subject?" etc.
Also remember that at events, we often do not have time to network in-depth, so therefore make the contact and then agree on how you should follow up after woods - maybe by agreeing on a meeting, a telephone chat, an email regarding the topic, an introduction of people in your network or other things.

When you attend an event you often would like to network with several people, but you also feel obligated to have long conversations with the people you meet. The way to balance this is to express that you really would like to network, but since your both at the event to network with several people/expand your network, you suggest that you meet/contact each other after woods to be more specific/have a more in-depth conversation...

So at events my advice is to have the mind setting; "Make contact (plus create a positive connection) - network later"!