Highly Effective Conversation Starters for Holiday Networking Events
Networking events and holiday get-togethers can be fantastic places to meet new people in the hospitality industry. Through the new connections you form, you may find a mentor or land your next job. But of course, in order for that magic to happen, you first have to spark some in-depth conversations with people you may not have met before. Here are some questions to get the discussion started.
1. “Are you participating in the LinkedIn group/Twitter chat?”
Particularly if you’re at a formal event like a conference, the hosting organization or the event itself may have a social media presence. Asking people if they’re participating online is a natural opening to share profiles, learn the other attendees’ names and professional affiliations, and start talking. This question also paves the way for following up later with an email or a LinkedIn invite.
2. “Is your venue doing something creative for the holidays?”
As you look around the room, you’ll likely see holiday decorations, festive food, or other signs of the season. These are perfect prompts to ask other attendees how their venues are celebrating the holidays. People love to talk about fun things they’re working on, and almost every venue acknowledges Christmas or the New Year—so most people will have answers ready.
3. “What was your greatest achievement this year?”
This question gives people a chance to share something they’re proud of. The answers can also give you an idea of the position they hold and the type of work they do. If someone’s achievement sounds similar to a project you’re currently working on, you can let them know and ask for advice.
4. “What are you looking forward to next year at work?”
December through early January is a time when people plan ahead and set goals. Attendees will probably already be thinking about this question, and you can figure out from their answers whether you have some common interests or whether you’ll be tackling the same kinds of challenges in the coming year.
5. “If you could meet anyone in the industry, who would you most like to meet?”
This question asks people to dream big, and you can learn about their aspirations and interests from their answer. You may also get ideas about people to introduce to each other. For example, if you talk to two people who both wish they could meet an expert on boutique branding, you could introduce them to each other based on their shared focus. They may return the favor in the future and introduce you to someone who can help you progress in your career.
6. “Do you have a networking goal?”
Once you know what someone’s goal is at a networking event, you can see if you can help them achieve it. You may even have the same goal, in which case the two of you might be able to collaborate. Goals often become apparent in the course of conversation, but asking directly is also an option.
7. “What’s your favorite travel destination?”
This is a classic icebreaker, and it’s apt for hospitality networking because people in the industry are usually passionate about travel. If you’ve been to the place someone mentions, you can compare notes and establish an immediate rapport with them. If you haven’t been there but might like to visit someday, you can ask them to recommend attractions or places to eat.
8. “If you could change one thing about your job, what would you change?”
Lots of people would love to be able to wave a magic wand and vanquish their pet peeve at work. This hypothetical question lets them imagine doing that, which is fun, and their answer tells you what their job is and what their top pain points are on the job. You may find that you can share tips or a funny story if you’ve ever experienced something similar.
9. “Do you have a favorite networking tip?”
This question allows people to share their expertise, and you can learn some valuable networking strategies just by asking. And if a few people say that they’re completely new to networking and they don’t have any tips, it’s easy to keep the conversation going with questions about how recently they entered the industry and how they like their job so far.