10 Ways To Start a Conversation (Plus 15 Ice Breakers)

Updated March 16, 2023

An illustration of groups of two meeting, chatting or shaking hands.

Whether you're trying to settle into a new role or you're set to meet a new professional contact, the ability to start a conversation is an excellent skill for networking and building relationships. However, it can be a challenge to find the right words the first time you meet someone. Regardless of the situation or personality of the person you want to talk to, there are several effective ways to begin a conversation.

In this article, we take a look at 10 conversation starters (with examples), plus 15 ice breakers, as well as the best topics to start a new conversation with and a few topics you should avoid.

Related: How To Keep a Conversation Going: Benefits and 10 Tips

10 ways to start a conversation

In the workplace, you can choose a variety of topics to start a conversation as long as they're appropriate for the environment. Conversations with your colleagues or professional contacts will be different than those with a new friend or acquaintance. Your initial efforts could start a conversation, which may pay off later by helping you build valuable relationships with coworkers and colleagues. Here are some conversation starters for the workplace:

1. Ask for information

A good way to start a conversation is to ask for information from the person you want to talk to. This is an effective and natural way to build rapport with someone quickly. Even if you already know the answer, it's still a good way to approach someone if you can't think of another topic.

Example: "Do you know if the regional director will speak after the opening session?"

Related: A Guide to Small Talk: 4 Tips and 45 Conversation Starters

2. Pay a compliment

Complimenting someone can brighten their day and boost their confidence. You can pick something about the person you like and mention why you like it.

Example: "I really like your hair. The cut suits you."

Further, when meeting a prominent person in your organization for the first time, a good way to start a conversation is to praise their work.

Example: "I heard the speech you gave at the banquet last week. You made some really good points."

Related: 30 Ways To Compliment Your Coworkers

3. Comment on something pleasant

You can usually find something positive to say about an event or situation. The occasion could have been the last office happy hour or a sports game that was on the night before. If the person shares your views, you are on your way to an engaging conversation.

Example: "Did you watch the football game last night? I think our team finally hit their stride."

Related: 50 Small Talk Topics To Help You Build Authentic Relationships

4. Introduce yourself

While this may not be suitable for every situation, introducing yourself is a straightforward way to show your interest in meeting someone. For example, if you just started in a new role and haven't yet met someone in another department, you can approach them and introduce yourself.

Example: "Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m new to the team and wanted to introduce myself."

Related: How To Introduce Yourself in an Interview

5. Offer help … or ask for help

If you find yourself in a position to help someone you want to talk to, seize the moment and assist them. Offering help can make you likable and earn the trust of the other person, especially when you show genuine concern.

Example: "Can I help you file away some of those binders?" or "Do you need a seat?"

Requesting help is another effective way to start a conversation. It works because it makes the other person feel helpful, especially if it’s something they can provide easily. If someone does you a favor, they may be more likely to think of you in a favorable light and trust you. Asking for help can help you start a friendly conversation, however, make sure your request is convenient for the other party.

Example: "Could you tell me where this conference room is located?" or "Could I borrow a pen from you?"

Related: 9 Ways To Help and Support Colleagues at Work

6. Mention a shared experience

If you want to talk to someone who you know shares something in common with you, you can reference it as your talking point. Your shared experiences make getting along easier and that aids the flow of the conversation and the building of the relationship.

Example: "When was the last time you saw our friend Rachel?" or "How do you like working in the Philly office?"

Related: The Top 25 Qualities of a Good Coworker

7. Ask an opinion

Soliciting other people’s opinions shows you value and are interested in what they have to say. If they are familiar with the topic, many people will happily respond to your questions and get a conversation started. When asking for an opinion, choose topics relevant to the moment.

Example: "How do you like the coffee from the new cafe?" or "Are those (name brand) shoes? Are they comfortable?"

Related: 35 Great Business Conversation Starters

8. Show genuine interest

See if you can naturally bring up a topic you know the person is passionate about. Passions can get your coworkers talking and from this, you can learn something new. Remember to keep the conversation friendly and positive.

Example: "I see your T-shirt says [band name]. Have you been to one of their shows?" or "I saw on the welcome email that you just moved here from Barbados. What is it like there?"

Related: 15 Ways To Find Your Passion in Life

9. Ask about them

People naturally like talking about themselves. Try finding a topic that will allow the person to speak about their interests, family or experiences.

Example: "That’s a great photo of your family on your desk. How old are your children?" or "I heard that you recently took vacation time to visit Hawaii, how was it?"

Related: 150 Helpful Conversation Starters for Networking Professionals

10. Comment on the weather

If all else fails, you can always comment on the weather. It's one of the easiest ways to get someone talking and can segue into multiple other topics.

Example: "It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?" or "Can you believe all the snow we’re getting?"

Related: Making Small Talk: How To Start a Meaningful Conversation

Ice breakers to start a conversation

Ice-breaker questions are a fun and engaging way to learn more about someone and keep the conversation going. Here are 15 ice breakers you might consider during your next conversation and/or meeting:

  1. What are you currently reading?

  2. If you could meet any historical figure, either living or deceased, who would you choose and why?

  3. What’s the last film you watched? What did you like or dislike about it?

  4. If you could pick up a certain skill instantly, what would it be?

  5. What’s your favorite book?

  6. What is your favorite movie?

  7. What’s the most memorable vacation you’ve ever taken?

  8. What superpower would you like to have?

  9. Have you ever done something on your bucket list?

  10. If you had 25 hours in a day, what would you do with the extra hour?

  11. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?

  12. Is there a certain person that has inspired your work?

  13. What’s the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve been given?

  14. What’s your favorite indoor activity?

  15. Where would you most like to travel next?

Read more: 55 Top "Get to Know You" Questions for the Workplace

The best topics to start a conversation

Since you now know how to start a conversation, it helps to know the best topics to discuss. These rank among the most popular:


So long as your communication skills are good and the questions are not too intimate, people will often feel proud to talk freely about their families.


People are passionate about sports and will gladly share their passion. You can ask questions about their favorite teams, tournaments and sporting events.


If you ask someone about their favorite TV show or series, the chances are that they will have one or two they watch.


Being current on the latest news can help you start small talk easily with strangers and acquaintances. However, it is generally best to leave political news out of the workplace.


Whether you're talking to a person in your own company or someone you met recently, asking questions about their duties at work will likely inspire a response.

Related: 20 Ways To Start a Conversation With a Stranger

Topics to avoid in a conversation

Some topics are best to avoid when starting a new conversation in the workplace. Asking questions that are too personal or sensitive can cause your relationship to get off on the wrong foot. They include:

  • Salary or benefits

  • Politics

  • Religion

  • Age

  • Controversies

  • Gossip

The key is to avoid any negative conversations that might make people upset. Keep your conversation starters positive, and you can start a good relationship with your coworker or colleague.

Related: How to Build Good Working Relationships


Explore more articles

  • What Is a Competitive Strategy? (With 4 Common Types)
  • 12 Nice Things To Say About Your Boss in a Review (With Tips)
  • 50 Examples of Recruitment Email Subject Lines
  • Group Communication: Definition, Types and Best Practices
  • How To Deal With Difficult Customers: A Complete Guide
  • How To Calculate Interest Compounded Semiannually
  • How To Write a Value Statement (With Template and Example)
  • 6 Methods for How To Add Numbers in Excel (Plus Tips)
  • 7 Strategies To Help When You Feel Overwhelmed at Work
  • How To Learn From Your Mistakes and Achieve Better Results
  • How To Handle a Lack of Support at Work: What You Can Do
  • How To Include Strengths and Weaknesses in a Recommendation Letter