Making conversation with strangers isn’t easy, whether you’re attending a networking event or kicking off a meeting with new people. While breaking the ice doesn’t come naturally to everyone, there are ways to make it easier. By asking thought-provoking questions, you can encourage people to talk and get to know them better.
In this article, you’ll find examples of icebreaker questions to use in most situations where fun, light-hearted conversation can lighten the mood and encourage real bonding:
“What would you be” questions
A great way to break the ice is by activating people’s imagination using familiar topics. The following quick, easy questions allow you to engage individuals you don’t know very well.
- If you could be cast in a movie of your choice, what movie would you choose and which character would you want to play?
- If you could meet any historical figure, either living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
- If you could choose only one place to go on vacation for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
“What would you be” questions can be adapted in countless ways to tap into people’s personalities and get them talking: What vegetable would you be and why? What animal would you be? What kind of cereal would you be? Try a few of your own versions, or customize them to fit the next networking event you’re attending and see what happens.
[Read more: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps]
“Play favorites” questions
Another great way to break the ice with strangers is to encourage them to tell a personal, positive story. See if one of the below appeals to you:
- What’s your favorite personal possession and why?
- What’s the most memorable vacation you’ve ever taken?
- What is your favorite movie?
- Who was your favorite teacher when you were young? Why?
- What superpower would you like to have?
The key to success with “Play favorites” questions is to avoid negative experiences and elicit either fond memories or future aspirational goals.
Personal brand questions
Asking people what they value about themselves or asking them to think in metaphors can quickly unlock powerful insights.
- Which season fits your personality best—spring, summer, fall, or winter—and why?
- If you were to choose a well-known axiom or slogan for your life, what would it be? (Bonus points if you can adapt this question for the meeting, topic, client brand, or event you’re attending.)
- If you were a color, which would you be and why?
- What aspect of your personality adds the most value to the world?
- What’s a skill you learned when you were young that you still use today?
By learning the traits that people assign to themselves based on these comparisons, you can learn what they aspire to and want to be known for.
Deep dive questions
Asking these questions will take the conversation with another individual a bit further than the average icebreaker. They provide great opportunities to learn more about another person’s current professional lives, their talents, and even the challenges they’re experiencing.
- What talent or potential do you have that is not fully realized at your current job?
- What single activity at work, if you could do it every day, would most increase your appreciation of and success at your current job?
- What’s something you believed earlier in your career but think about differently now?
- What’s the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Use these questions to initiate an insightful dialog at a networking event or during a one-on-one informational interview with someone you don’t know very well but want to thoughtfully engage.