Have you ever picked up a book in a library or bookstore and read the first page before deciding whether or not to get the book? The author has less than a minute to try to grab your attention. The beginning of a book is called the hook. It should hopefully get you interested enough to turn the page, and read the rest of the book.
The opening of this article is also a hook. At this point, either you read past the first paragraph or you didn’t. Starting a conversation, especially with someone new, can be kind of a hook. Good conversation starters should get the other participants interested and wanting more.
Want to know how to start a conversation with just about anyone?
Here are 10 icebreakers that make great conversation starters:
1. Is there a restaurant in the neighborhood that you like?
People like to talk about the kinds of foods they like. Rather than asking a new acquaintance what their favorite food is (possibly making them hem and haw to choose only one, leaving little room for the conversation to grow), narrow it down for them.
Asking about a restaurant nearby lets them talk about something particular that they like. You can then follow up by asking about what they usually order, and then mention what kinds of food you like in comparison. This gives them the chance to share something they know, and you the opportunity to know where to eat your next great meal.
2. How was your holiday?
Be specific here. If it’s July 10th, ask about the 4th of July. If it’s the middle of November, ask about Thanksgiving plans. Come to the conversation prepared. Hopefully, your counterpart will help keep the conversation going. If they say “fine” and nothing else though, you can talk about YOUR holiday.
Be ready with that story of when Uncle Bob accidentally set fire to the streamers; or when the little cousins put on a holiday play that you thought would never end. Whatever your most interesting holiday tale is, have it in your back pocket as one of your fool-proof conversation starters.
3. Are you a college football fan?
Any sport can be substituted for college football – and you don’t have to be a fan to start a conversation with this topic. Serious fans are happy to talk about their teams. If you’re NOT a fan and they’re NOT a fan, you can bond over that. “People at work are picking fantasy football teams and I’m just not into it. I’d rather be washing my turtle.”
4. I recently read this book. Have you read it?
Talk about a book that you loved. If your conversation partner hasn’t read the book, it’s a great way to introduce them to it. Since it’s something you loved, you can probably talk about it for a while. Then hear about what books they like.
What if you haven’t read anything recently? Choose a book you read years ago. The other person doesn’t need to know how long it’s been since you read it. Other great conversation starters include: movies, plays, or TV shows. The same principle applies.
5. Why do sports teams and schools get mascots and people don’t?
This is one of those random, yet interesting conversation starters.
I’d love to have a mascot. A cool logo and a uniform, plus someone in a giant foam head parading around cheering me on through life sounds like a lot of fun! I’d choose a house cat for my mascot. They really have the good life, you know? Meals served regularly, lots of resting, and definitely rulers of the house. What would you choose?
6. If you could choose anyone in the world – whom you’ve never met – to talk with on the phone, who would you choose?
What would you want to ask them? What would you want to tell them? Be flexible with your answers. Maybe someone hates talking on the phone and can’t limit their choice to one person. Get creative! This is an icebreaker, not a job interview. How about a party with all the people you’ve wanted to meet in one room? Who would be the guests of honor?
7. What’s your rock star name?
Here’s how you find out. Take the name of your first pet and your last car and put them together. Or choose your middle name with the first street you lived on. Or put together your favorite teacher’s last name and a city that starts with the same letter.
These are casual, and fun questions similar to quizzes found online. Depending on how much time you have, mix them up and try one for size. See what sounds the best and get some laughs along the way.
8. Have you ever…?
Have you ever gotten food poisoning? Have you ever met someone famous? Have you ever found money? Choose your icebreaker question, while keeping in mind that you’re just getting to know each other. A new acquaintance might not want to divulge whether they’ve ever gotten pulled over by the cops or been hospitalized or have lost a loved one recently. Keep things exciting and positive, and maybe a little wacky – but be tactful.
9. Would you rather…?
‘Would you rather questions’ are fun icebreakers. But they can also stop things dead in their tracks, especially if the other person doesn’t know how to play.
For example: would you rather jump out of a plane without a parachute OR swim through shark infested waters? Obviously neither. But to play along, you need to choose one. It can be a great icebreaker for those who are willing to play along.
10. Finally, you can always talk about the weather.
Yes, the weather. Here’s why: everyone experiences the weather. You might be drenched in the rain without an umbrella, stuck in the snow trekking to the only open grocery store, sweating bullets, or enjoying a nice breeze – these are things most people can relate to. Like with the other icebreakers, the key is to be ready.
For example: if it’s a nice day outside you might say: “I love these nice days. I’m going to try to enjoy them before it gets too hot. Do you prefer the summer or the winter?”
People respond to stories because people like talking about themselves. The best icebreakers provide opportunities for both of those. The examples above are just a few of the topics to use as conversation starters. Other ideas include: music, technology, clothes, education, and travel.
Think back to the example of an author writing a book. Whatever you choose as your icebreaker, come prepared with a story of your own and some follow-up questions, too. The hook is just the beginning. Just as the author wants the reader to turn the page, conversation starters are there to get the participants interested in what’s coming next.