It’s spring conference season and that means that many of you will be heading off to industry conferences.  One thing you can count on at these conferences is massive amounts of people. And with massive crowds of people comes overwhelm and maybe even a little bit of shyness when it comes to starting conversations with strangers.

4 Simple Conversation Starter Rules

  1. Keep Your Questions Open-Ended: You know the drill, start your question with a Who, What, Where, When, Why or In What Ways.
  2. Get Out of the Box Booth: Sure, you can ask trade show or conference related questions, but switch things up a bit and ask questions about them and their business.
  3. Keep it Professional: Some topics are more suited for your friends and family than strangers or near-strangers. Your questions should never make your conversational partner uncomfortable.
  4. Be Relevant: If you can start a conversation about something timely or specific, such as your location, event, industry, jobs, or current interests. The other person will find it easier to contribute.

If you find yourself wondering how to start conversations at conferences — here are just a few questions you can jot down to get the conversation started:

  1. Why are you at the conference and what will you walk away with that will make this time worthwhile?
  2. What’s your strategy for getting and keeping profitable customers?
  3. What sets your business apart from the crowd?
  4. What possibilities or opportunities do you see for your business in 2010? And in what is at least one way that you’re going to take advantage of them?
  5. What’s been your most successful strategy in building your business so far? What tips do you have for those of us that want to use that strategy as well?
  6. What do you love about your business?
  7. How did you start your business?
  8. What’s been your favorite part of the conference so far?
  9. Who are some of your favorite experts and/or authors?
  10. Have you gone to this conference before? What’s changed?
  11. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned? (If the conference isn’t over, add “so far?”)
  12. Why did you decide to attend?
  13. Are you planning on coming back next year?
  14. Are you here with other people? Do you prefer going to conferences solo or with a group?
  15. Are you doing any non-conference activities while you’re here? Alternatively: “Did you fit in any non-conference activities?”)
  16. Is this your first time in [city]? What do you think of it?
  17. Are you from the area? (If yes: “Do you have any [food, museum, shopping, music] recommendations?” If no: “Where are you from?”)