How To Start a Conversation in a Professional Setting
One thing that sets humans apart from other species is our ability to engage in detailed, productive conversations with each other. The ability to have a great conversation proves critical in the workplace as businesses depend on internal and external communication to accomplish their goals and grow.
Are you hoping to take on more responsibility with your current company or improve your career prospects? Are you a manager looking to connect on a different level with your team members and superiors? Are you on the job hunt, looking to make a fantastic first impression?
Whatever your situation, learning how to start a conversation in a professional setting is essential. Knowing how to initiate conversations and keep them productive will help you perform better in the workplace, become an indispensable employee, and push your career in the right direction.
Below, Poised breaks down the process of starting professional conversations and touches on how our platform can help you communicate with confidence.
6 Ways To Start a Professional Conversation
As with any conversation, it helps to know how to deliver a good icebreaker. No one likes the awkward silence; having some solid conversation starters can prove valuable in those kinds of situations.
Icebreakers come in many forms, including anything from a well-timed joke to an engaging question. As long as your icebreaker question is contextually appropriate and encourages conversation, it will get the job done.
Here are six other ways to strike up a conversation in a professional setting:
1. Introduce Yourself and Your Credentials
This tactic isn’t suitable for every situation, but sometimes introducing yourself is the most straightforward and effective way to start a professional conversation. It provides the platform to greet the other person while showing them you’re interested in meeting them.
For example, if you are new to the company and there’s someone on your team you haven’t met yet, you could say:
“Hi, I’m Monica. This is my first week with the team, and I just wanted to introduce myself.”
It can also help to mention your credentials to your new team members so that they have an idea of the experience you bring to the table. Try to be confident without sounding arrogant, whether you have 10–plus years of success under your belt or are fresh out of college.
2. Find a Relatable Experience or Mutual Business Connection
At our core, we all want to relate to others. Whether you're preparing for a difficult conversation at work or trying to improve your communication skills in general, learn how to acknowledge a shared experience with others. Highlighting common ground between you and the other person or mentioning a mutual business connection can help both of you feel more comfortable and get the conversation flowing.
The funny thing is that you probably approach conversations like this often, even if you don't realize it. For example, you might mention to a stranger how hot it is outside or comment on a recent event in the neighborhood, leading to a brief conversation. This approach also works in many workplace scenarios, such as talking at a networking event, meeting with a new team, or interviewing for a job.
The key is to stay neutral when using the "relatable experience" strategy. Try not to criticize anyone or anything to avoid offending the other person. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of small talk!
3. Offer Your Assistance/Professional Expertise
If you want to lay a firm foundation for conversation, start earning the trust and respect of your colleagues. One simple way to accomplish this is to offer to help someone with something. The assistance you offer is less important than the fact that you offer it — it proves to your team members that you genuinely care.
Say, for instance, you come across a colleague moving heavy equipment or boxes in the office. You could simply ask them if they would like help. Voilà: You have the perfect platform for a conversation! You could also ask any team members you see if they want a cup of coffee or a snack when you're going out to get something for yourself.
Further, be aware of moments you can offer your professional expertise. Maybe it's a specific task or project that falls within your specialty or a quick solution to a problem you've seen before. Offer your assistance with no strings attached, and your team will see that you truly want them to succeed, leaving them more open to conversation.
4. Ask Them To Help You With Something
On the other side of the spectrum, look for opportunities to request assistance from others. Maybe you could ask a team member how to use a new tool or if you could borrow their pen. Just remain mindful of moments that could lead to healthy conversation in a professional setting.
Asking for help not only shows humility but also that you’re eager to broaden your skill set and learn new things. It will help build a professional rapport while providing a platform for conversation, whether small talk or work-related topics.
5. Ask for an Opinion on Their Industry
The most direct method of showing another person that you value their ideas and inputs is to ask them for their opinion on something. We all have opinions, and when someone asks us what we think, we’re inclined to eagerly engage in a range of conversation topics.
You could go the simple route by asking a colleague their opinion on the new restaurant in town. Or you could ask what they think about a specific topic related to your industry. If you’re talking to a coworker from another department, ask if you can pick their brain on something they likely know a lot about.
6. Inquire About Any Professional Resources They Would Recommend
Hard work can take you far in your career. At the end of the day, much of your success will depend on your resources. Asking your colleagues about professional resources you could benefit from is an excellent way to get a conversation going. It's also a valuable strategy for making new connections that can propel your career.
This is also a great approach for learning more about your job role. When your team members see that you're trying to improve, it can help develop rapport and encourage collaboration.
Poised Makes Conversation Easier Than Ever
Your team might talk about all kinds of things. A large portion of your video calls might revolve around business topics like social media marketing, financial management, or customer relationships. But if you want to connect with your colleagues, you also need the social skills necessary to talk about things unrelated to work.
Maybe you could start conversations about your favorite book, your favorite movie, your very first date with your partner, or the dinner you had last night. Talking about an amusing, awkward social situation, your family's favorite sports team, or your first time experiencing New York City are also good conversation starters.
You might also consider tools that can help you develop into a strong conversationalist.
Here are a few ways that Poised can improve your communication skills, whether you’re talking with a group of people at work or with new friends:
Get Real-Time Communication Feedback
The Poised communication coach provides real-time feedback on your performance during video calls. It gives you tips on the spot for how you can improve across various metrics. And you don't have to worry about anyone else knowing you're using the software.
Find and Fix Your Bad Communication Habits
Maybe you tend to tune others out when you're not speaking, shy away from a deep conversation, or showcase your sense of humor at inappropriate times. Perhaps you don't know what a meme is or how to engage in a text conversation with your colleagues. Poised will identify your poor communication habits and provide expert resources for fixing them.
Take Your Listening Skills Up a Notch
Active listening is one of the most crucial social skills to learn if you want to be a good conversationalist and team member. When activated, the Poised communication coach will notify you when you appear uninterested or disengaged. You’ll be able to quickly change course and show genuine interest in what your colleagues are saying.
Learn To Speak at the Perfect Pace
It's challenging to follow a speaker's message when they’re rambling or speaking too slowly. The key is to find a pace that allows you to speak naturally without distracting team members from your message or overwhelming them. Poised tracks your speech rate to help you identify and execute the perfect pace.
Improve Your Non-Verbal Communication
Finally, if you want to maintain an interesting conversation or productive team meeting, you must be mindful of your non-verbal communication. This means keeping eye contact with your audience when speaking and listening, as well as using body language that projects confidence and openness.
Poised can help you master your non-verbal language in no time. You might be surprised how much you say when you're not speaking!
Start Elevating Your Communication Today
If you're ready to take your communication to the next level, it's time to give Poised a try. Our software will provide real-time advice and track your performance over time to help you develop into a strong communicator in professional and casual settings. Asking for help is a big part of any type of growth — and Poised is here to help.
How To Introduce Yourself To Co-Workers | Chron
The Right Way To Ask for Help at Work | Company Culture | US News
Practice Active Listening: Learn How To Listen Attentively | Verywell Mind