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Killer Conversation Starters

How can you dazzle someone with your conversational skills?

How can you talk to anyone?

How can you be more memorable?

Easy: Use killer conversation starters.

conversation starters

But what else can you do to encourage good conversation? I have asked friends from around the web to help with some conversation tricks in addition to some of the ones I use. Here are our favorites:

Killer Openers:

These openers work great for beginning a conversation. They’re far more interesting than the standard “Where are you from?” type questions, and they are excellent conversation builders.

1. Tell me about you.
2. What’s your story?
3. What personal passion project are you working on right now?
4. Working on anything exciting lately?
5. How do you know the host?
6. Have you been to an event like this before?
7. What was the highlight of your day today?
8. What was the highlight of your week?
9. What was the high-point and low-point of your day so far?
10. Is this your busy season? Is this a busy time for you?

Continue the Conversation:

If you feel a little awkward asking personal questions right out of the gate, use your environment and surroundings to create conversation. Comment on the food and drinks. Ask about the venue or location. You can also ask general interest questions, like their favorite sports team or YouTube video.

11. What are you doing this weekend…what’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
12. What are your favorite restaurants around here?
13. Keeping up with __sport__ recently?
14. Can you recommend any unique cocktails here?
15. All the food looks so good… I’m not sure what to get! What are you thinking? Or what have you tried?
16. What a beautiful/cool/ugly/bizarre venue. Have you been here before?
17. Did you see that viral ____ YouTube video? It was all over my social media today.

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Going Deep:

Be bold. Ask the deep stuff. As the majority of our new conversations hover on surface-level topics, it’s refreshing to talk about more meaningful areas of our lives. These may be a bit forward as your first questions, but if the conversation is progressing well, try one or two of these out.

18. What’s your biggest fear?
19. If you had to pick any character in a book, movie or TV show who is most similar to you, who would you choose? Why?
20. What’s your biggest regret?
21. When you were growing up what was your dream job? Is any part of that still true?

Event Specific Conversation Starters:

Is there an upcoming holiday or special event? Use these as a base for fun and light-hearted conversations, like “What’s the best fireworks display you’ve seen on the 4th of July?” or “I went to the coolest Irish bar last St. Patrick’s Day. Doing anything fun this year for it?” This is one of the easiest ways to start a fun conversation!

22. Best Halloween costume you ever had?
23. Best Halloween costume you’ve ever seen?
24. Do you like haunted houses or scary rides?

25. How does your family celebrate?
26. Best Christmas memory you have ever had?
27. What’s an ideal Christmas for you?

28. How do you usually celebrate your birthday?
29. What was the best birthday you ever had?
30. What was the best birthday gift you ever had?
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.

Bonus: Funny Pick-Up Lines from Readers

These were a few pick-up lines submitted from readers I thought you might enjoy as a bonus:
“Yo” –Jim Snell
“How’s it hangin’?” –Vicki Combden Murphy
“You are pretty cute for a short girl” –Jonathan Wichmann
“Me?” –Rachel Wong

Reader Story:

Read how Juliet used our conversation starter in action:

Hi there Vanessa! I would like to share to you an experience I had in one of our Communication Readiness Training. We did something called Speed Dating”. It’s not totally Speed Dating in real life, but merely an activity to test and assess yourself how you interact with others from starting a conversation up until sustaining it until the time runs out. We were 14 trainees, 7 girls and the other 7 were boys. We were partnered up and would have to immediately start a conversation which would last for 3 minutes. After that, the boys would rotate and talk to the next girl until all 7 were done.

When we were about to do the activity, I remembered one of your articles or videos that I have read/watched about starting a conversation with the question: “What’s your personal passion?” I decided to be consistent with 7 of the boys and asked them similar question, being always the one to start the conversation. Personally, I don’t know the boys yet since we just started training a week ago. I don’t know much of their history except for their names and brief facts about themselves.

As I started conversing with them using that topic as a heads up, they openely shared their interests, hobbies, and things they’re passionate about. I was able to respond to them enthusiastically and relate to them, even if not to the extent of it. Like for example, one of the boys loves to play video games. I’m not that in to it, but I played a video game before so just by gauging their interest and probing more, we sustained a conversation just all about it. I tried doing it to all 7 of them with different topics of interest.

In the end of the activity, we were all asked to write who was the person that made a great impact/impression to us and the one we enjoyed the most talking to. When the results came up for the boys, 5 out of 7 chose me as the girl they had most fun with during the activity. I was a bit surprised but seeing them enthusiastically responding to me and giggling in out chat made the conversation enjoyable and indeed memorable.
I therefore want to thank you Vanessa for that awesome and not so common punchline that made me a better converser! ;)”


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All Rights Reserved + COPYRIGHT 2013 Science of People, LLC

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and behavioral investigator. She is a Huffington Post columnist and her courses and research has been featured on CNN, Forbes, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. As a published Penguin author, Vanessa regularly speaks and appears in the media to talk about her research. She is a sought after consultant and speaker.


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  2. tasha

    I love this one ” HI! … let me ask you a question, how much does a polar bear weigh? ….(they say I dont know)… oh that’s OK, neither do I, but it’s enough to break the ice!” Even if they have heard it before they join in and it gets things going. (can you tell I work in sales :P)

  3. Bwayne

    I have tried the ‘Whats your passion?’ line on women with disappointing results.
    It seems that stay at home moms passions have been restricted to kids only. Vanessa, you are lovely with a great smile.

  4. Stephen Furnari

    I tested 3 of these Killer Conversation Starters at a conference networking mixer for attorneys recently. I repeatedly used: (1) What personal passion project are you working on right now?; (2) What’s your story?; and (3) Working on anything exciting lately?

    What’s brilliant about these conversation starters is that they get the other person talking about something they are passionate about, which might not be about work, but leaves the door open for a conversation about work if they’re not comfortable sharing personal information. The result was 48 high quality contacts and a few new friends.

    1. Danielle McRae

      Hi Stephen, wow! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am thrilled to hear that these conversation starters worked so well for you!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

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  6. Marsha from

    LOVE this! So many people suggest conversation openers that are really wacky, and while I think they *can make for great conversations, personally, I never feel brave enough to lead with those! I love how you’ve suggested so many that would feel comfortable to anyone.

    Also, I’m a huge fan of questions that elicit a positive response (because they make the answerer feel good – and, as Maya Angelou says, people will never forget how you made them FEEL!), so I love that you have so many in here.

    Sharing now, thanks!

    1. Danielle McRae

      Thank you for reading, Marsha! I absolutely agree–these conversation starters seem doable and fun!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  7. Harry McGill

    “Hello, voices in my head told me to come and talk with you”. (Done with a rye smile of course) Being Scottish helps here too. haha.

  8. Brandon Lee

    Another favorite of mine akin to the polar bear one is fat peguins. Just walk up to the person and say “Fat penguins”. When they look at you weird or ask you “What?” You look at them and say “Fat penguins. They’re a great way to break the ice.”

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  10. Robby Smith

    Such a great post on knowing what to say when the conversation either gets dull or you don’t know exactly how to start a conversation. Thank you Vanessa for sharing these great tips!

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  13. Caleb Riker

    I’ve got to say, if anyone starts a conversation with me by saying, “Tell me about you,” or asking, “What’s your story?” then that conversation is going nowhere. Those questions are incredibly anxiety-inducing, and I start looking for an exit when I hear them.

    1. Danielle McRae

      Thanks for your comment, Caleb. We recommend that you find a conversation starter that you feel comfortable with you you come across as your most authentic and genuine self. You could try “How’s your day going?” or “Up to anything fun this weekend?” and then progress to the deeper questions if you felt comfortable!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

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  15. Bella Perennis

    Great summary! My all time favorite is: Which super power would you like to have? But “What’s you passion?” is pretty cool too. Simply but explosive.

  16. Liam Hayes

    I love these conversation tips! I feel that on many occasions, small talk can be difficult. I oten can end up using the regular “where are you from?” / “what do you do?” questions. I think it’s a super good idea to have tested conversational jewels in your back pocket to keep you from boring your audience.

  17. Lauren Freeman

    These get my mind going on which ones I’d like to be asked and what my answers would be! I’m a little nervous to try the going deep ones, but that comes with time! The next time I’m at an event where I’ll be meeting many new people, I’ll have a mental list going on which ones to try out and which ones do well 🙂

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