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Overcome Social Awkwardness at Your Office Party with These 7 Conversation Starters

Work parties!! We all have them and some of us have major fits of anxiety thinking about what to wear and how to not act awkward. We grabbed these 7 great conversation starters from the experts at Business Insider magazine and LinkedIn. Use these tips at your next holiday party to overcome social awkwardness and shine.

Coming prepared is important because the holiday party is an opportunity to network. You potentially get facetime with everyone in the company from the CEO to the most recent hire. Showing up prepared could be a game-changer. You can build and strengthen relationships and showcase your potential. Here’s how:

First, research. Come up with a list of people you’re hoping to talk to in advance. Then do some quick background research on them: skim their LinkedIn page, Twitter account, or blog. Look for shared interests, experiences and any commonality you can use to strike up a conversation. Then use one of the 7 conversation starters below.

  1. “I read that you went to…” Insert accordingly. You can talk about the schools they’ve attended or destinations they posted on social media. You can adjust the conversation if needed and say “I read a blog that you wrote.” Or, “I saw your whitepaper on LinkedIn.” Both are flattering and open-ended and will help generate a conversation rather than a simple yes or no response.
  2. “How did you get into the industry?” A favorite topic, especially among executives, is how they got where they are today. People enjoy sharing their journey and reminiscing about what brought them to work in the first place. Don’t be afraid to use this one on the higher-ups.
  3. “So, do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” This one is very telling. You can learn a lot about a person based on their answer. Even if their answer is ‘No.’ It can be a fun way to break the ice and get to know someone on a more personal level.
  4. “Did you take a vacation this year? Where did you go?” If you’re looking for a friendly topic that anyone would enjoy, vacation is it. Everyone loves to talk about time off. It doesn’t matter if they traveled or stayed home — asking about vacation will help you learn what your coworkers enjoy doing and how they unwind away from the office.
  5. “Have you seen any good movies lately?” Or, my favorite, “Do you binge-watch anything?” The best part about these questions is that they create endless follow-up questions. You can ask how they rate the movies they’ve seen or if you’ve seen them too, you can have an entire discussion about it.
  6. “What’s one of your favorite parts of this job?” This is a good conversation starter for anyone in the office. It’s about work, but also personal enough to generate a real discussion of things people like and value. And you might find that you care about the same things as the person you’re talking with. 
  7. “What do you think about…” Insert accordingly. One of the best ways to connect with someone is to ask for advice, insight, and wisdom. All of these will come off as flattering to the recipient.

Lastly, after the party, follow up on the conversations.

If someone recommended a movie or show to you, shoot them an email saying you’ve added it to your queue and you are looking forward to watching it. If you and a coworker discovered a mutual interest, find a related article and pass it along.

You’re learning something about them so that you can follow up after the event. That’s how you build a relationship that will last beyond the holiday party.

If you would like to learn more about the HR services we offer, contact the experts at HRinDemand.

Melissa Marsh, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources consultant and founder of HRinDemand, a human resources company in Reno, NV, offering expert guidance and easy-to-use tools to help small businesses with employment regulations, compliance, employee relations, and company growth.

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