Most of us can talk for hours about our favorite topics, but have you ever wondered how to start the conversation?
Conversation is the process of combining questions, listening, and self-disclosure so that two strangers can build a common ground.
Tips: Be attentive, be curious, and be sincere.
- Tell me about your lab/institution/company/school.
(This way you get a general idea of how your might engage the person.)
- Tell me about your current role.
(This helps you to understand the perspective of the person you are talking with.)
- Do you like what you are doing?
(This gives you a measure of optimism in general.)
- What specifically do you love/like about your work?
(This helps to understand the motivations of the person better.)
- What are some of the biggest challenges facing you right now?
(This helps you to see how you might help address some of the top challenges.)
- What are you passionate about? (This is a personal favorite question!)
(Notice if you are given a work/school response or personal life response. This is just to get to know the person a little better and perhaps give you something to build common ground.)
- What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
(This is just to get to know the person a little better and help build common ground.)
At an event:
- I didn’t expect so many people to be here, you?
(This is simply small talk; you’ll need some back‐up ideas if this is a non‐starter.)
- The first speaker had some interesting ideas, what did you think?
- This event has been great so far for me, how about for you?
- I am so glad I finally got the chance to come here. This is my first time. You?
- Which workshop/speaker have you found the most interesting/helpful?
- This session is really crowded. What made you decide to choose this session?
(However, it is critical that you are sincere.)
- That book bag/backpack looks really sturdy…you like it?
- I read your abstract/paper/website/blog—really interesting. Can you tell me more about…
- Heard about your new position, congratulations…what do you think will be your biggest challenges?
- Great (watch/tie/shoes/scarf/jewelry). I bet there’s a story behind that. Where did you find?
- Which one (food/drink/session/etc.) do you suggest?
- Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
- What do you think about X (fill in anything relevant)?
Popular Culture Approach:
- What do you think about social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, BioCrowd?
- What do you think about Twitter (or Plurk, or . . . .)?
- What is your favorite/newest “app?”
- Are you a Limitless fan? Walking Dead/Breaking Bad/Game of Thrones fan? Do you like the show, “Big Bang Theory?”
- What do you think might be the next big technology break-through?