Working in a coworking space with a strong community has the potential to be like attending a networking event all-day, every day. But with so much potential, it’s easy to get tired of “What Do You Do” and “How long have you been working here”. So here are 6 business conversation starters - quirky, deep and powerful - to help you stick out and start conversations that last.
These are the most light-hearted and you need little or no introduction. Just walk up to someone, shake their hand and ask their name, then, just when they’re expecting you to ask a standard question, pop open a quirky.
What's your favourite way to procrastinate at work?
Why it’s great: You’re keeping the conversation on the subject of work and life in the office space… but you’re not talking about work. You’re encouraging them to be open, to trust you by confessing something they probably don’t usually discuss – but is rather trivial and not too personal. Once they’ve trusted you with a piece of information and vice versa, they’ll be more open, warm and personable to you. And it’s a safe topic – everyone has habits they know they should cut out!
Why are you an awesome human being?
Why it’s great: You’re asking them to drop the modesty and tell you something good about themselves. Everyone likes to share why they are special. They might tell you how they like to spend their free time or a story about something they did. Either way, it will be a memory that makes them feel good and they’ll associate that same positive feeling with you in the future – whether they’re deciding whether to do business with you or whether someone is asking them for a recommendation, that subconscious positive association could benefit you in the long-term.
These might need a bit of a warning! “Hey, can I skip the small talk and ask you a personal/ serious/ difficult question?” A pre-amble like that will cause them to prepare for something truly difficult or meaningful, so your question won’t seem like such a shocker.
Professionally speaking, where do you see yourself in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time?
Why it’s great: Until now we’ve dealt with the past and the present. Open them up to the future and you can make yourself a part of that future. You can take inspiration from other people’s plans and visions; you can continue the conversation with ease based on whatever answer they might give and if your answers match up, you can lay the foundations for a long-term relationship. “You’re planning to quit your job and start your own business? Me too!”
When you graduated, could you see yourself standing here, now?
Why it’s great: Once again, we’re going to be bringing back positive, happy memories. They’ll hopefully picture themselves on graduation day, one of their happiest moments, surrounded by friends and family have achieved a massive milestone. For half a second, they’ll be distracted by the memory before they come back to trying to figure out the answer to your question.
Do you really want to make them stop and think? Perhaps you’ve already been through small talk but now you need to upgrade the conversation?
Do you feel that you’re living to work or do you work to live?
Why it’s great: It’s a question everyone needs to ask themselves. Most of us should be working to live, but it’s easy to get distracted by work and let it take over. However, if your work is something you love and brings meaning to life, there might be a reason to shift the balance so that you’re living through work – teachers; doctors; musicians; paramedics; firefighters; social workers and many others. If they haven’t stopped before to think about this, you could change their life. Give them a new perspective. And they’ll remember you for that, as someone insightful, with the right priorities and a generally good person to be around.
What opportunities does your business provide for social action projects?
Why it’s great: This one is a bit riskier – it’s possible that they don’t provide any. But it’s becoming more and more common for large companies to have CSR policies, smaller businesses to donate their resources to the community and freelancers to volunteer their skills for charities. You get to talk about business, without getting into the nitty-gritty of work; about something that makes them feel good, bringing back positive memories; about something that shows them you’re a caring person who has good values. You chose to discuss charity, rather than politics, sports or money – that’s a good person.
And if their company hasn’t yet provided those opportunities… maybe you’ll have prompted them to start!