Six Conversation Starters Better Than The Weather
As an extrovert, I never found it challenging to make small talk before meetings. In fact, I actually enjoyed it and found it very valuable in making connections with others. That however all changed when the majority of my meetings shifted online, and I found myself starting almost every meeting with the same exact conversation:
“How’s the weather by you?”
“Ah, it looks really nice outside.”
“Same here. I can’t wait to go on a walk later.”
Even in Wisconsin, where it changes every twenty minutes, the weather is never that interesting to talk about (sorry local meteorologists).
I needed to end this cycle, so I posted a status on LinkedIn asking my connections how they avoid mundane small talk, and I was blown away by the responses.
So here you have it, a list of six conversation topics better than the weather:
It’s a pretty safe bet that if someone has a pet, they love talking about or sharing pictures of them (cough, cough, check out our GranAnimal blog posts). And now that more people are working at home and animal “zoom-bombing” meetings have become more frequent, asking about a pet can be a pretty smooth opening conversation topic.
Personally, I’ve never been much of a cat person, but wow, it’s funny when they walk across someone’s screen and hit random keys.
A lot of the time, someone will share with me another story of how their cat got into something it wasn’t supposed to, providing me with the perfect segue into a conversation.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, when I am starting a conversation, I genuinely ask questions and am not looking for a self-serving answer. When it comes to media, however, I am always looking for a good recommendation.
Media is something almost everyone is interested in, so talking about it is a great way to break the ice and find common ground.
Quick, Personal Story
These have become one of my favorite ways to start calls because it gives the other person insight into your life outside of work and humanizes you at the same time. It also opens the door for them to share more about themselves by following your quick story with a similar story or weighing in on whatever situation I shared. I’ve also had many “inside jokes” from people that can be used as great callbacks in future conversations.
Food is a great common denominator. Since most of my clients are local, I try to stay current on what new restaurants are coming to town or ones near them that I haven’t tried. I love asking for recommendations because not only do I usually get great suggestions, but it also allows the client to talk about their taste and interests.
If a client isn’t local, I ask them what food or menu item their city/state is best known for. They usually fire the question back, to which I always answer, “Cheese Curds.” I want to be more original than that, but let’s be real…cheese curds are the best (specifically from Lakefront Brewery).
I really like talking about travel, especially when the person I am speaking with is about to leave for a trip or is just returning. Usually, people will happily tell you what they are planning to do on their trip or what they did when they returned. A great way to start a conversation is to ask them what the best menu item they ordered was or what their favorite trip or activity was.
Sports are one of the amazing things in life that bring people together. No matter if you cheer for the same team or not, it’s fun to talk about sports. Now, obviously, not everyone likes sports, but sports today have become integrated into pop culture, so even if someone isn’t a sports fan, you can usually find some common ground.
Another question I like to ask people is what sports they played in school or if they have athletic hobbies outside of traditional team sports such as cycling, swimming, or hiking. This is a great way to learn more about someone’s past and find a common interest or connection.
There you have it! Six Conversation Starters that you can use are better than asking about the weather. Did I miss any that you’ve found to be helpful? Let us know in the comments.
Special thanks to those who responded to my Linkedin post and provided conversation starter ideas; Nicolas Putz, Wendy Cross, Nicole Lewis, Anna Borchert, June Jung, Steve Kroll, and Lynn Reich.