Ever found yourself in a networking conversation that seems to be going nowhere? You ask what you think are great questions but get one-word answers bounced back, and pretty soon you have nothing left to say (and start downing your drink so you can excuse yourself to “go get a refill”).

But while you may get stuck with generally awkward conversationalists from time to time, there are a few ways you can change up what you’re doing and saying to ensure that almost any first-time chat is a great one.

Here’s a quick but effective tip that Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette coach and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, gives in a video for Entrepreneur: Ask open-ended questions, and start them with the phrase, “Tell me.”

It sounds simple, but those two words are a cue that you’re engaged in the conversation and fascinated by what you might learn, in turn making your networking partner excited to share and open up. “Anytime you start a sentence with ‘tell me,’ it launches into scintillating conversation,” she says.

So, after you kick things off with one of our 30 brilliant conversation starters, give your go-to questions a little upgrade. Here are a few to try at your next networking event:

  • Instead Of: “What do you do?
    Try: “Tell me, what’s been keeping you busy lately?

  • Instead Of: “Do you like working there?”
    Try: “Tell me, what’s it like working there?”

  • Instead Of: “Are you enjoying the event?”
    Try: “Tell me, what’s been the best part of the event for you?”

  • Instead Of: “How’s business?”
    Try: “Tell me, what are you most focused on right now?”

  • Instead Of: “What were you doing before this job?”
    Try: “Tell me, how did you get to where you are now?”

  • Instead Of: “What do you do outside of work?”
    Try: “Tell me, what are you excited about outside of work?”

  • Instead Of: “What are you doing this summer?”
    Try: “Tell me, what are you looking forward to this summer?”



Tell us! What are your best networking tips? Share them in the comments section!


Photo of men talking courtesy of Shutterstock.