Some people are just naturally good at starting (and holding up their end of) conversations in social settings. From partying with people they’ve just met, to mingling with colleagues at an office event, they’re chatting up a storm and always seem to leave an event having made new friends and connections.
If you can’t relate to that above description whatsoever, you’re not alone! Many people find the concept of coming up with conversation starters to be quite intimidating and uncomfortable, if not downright scary. But socializing beyond small talk isn’t exclusively a God-given talent—it’s something everyone can learn to do, and even come to enjoy. And if you’re reading this now, you’re in the right place.
So listen up, wallflowers: Whether you’re hosting or are headed to a dinner party, a family barbecue, or a work happy hour, here are some smart and easy party conversation starters that are sure to get people talking.
“Chincoteague” by Paperless Post.
How do you start a conversation at a party?
We get it—starting a conversation at a party can feel intimidating. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have taken the time to find this article (*wink*)! It’s important to remember that even the most confident people feel awkward and nervous sometimes. In a social setting, do your best to give off a friendly demeanor. Body language says a lot, so keep your posture open in order to show you have a welcoming vibe.
One idea is to approach people who are already in a conversation that seems interesting to you. If they don’t engage with you, or the connection doesn’t feel like it’s there, move along to another group and try again. You might also want to seek out another guest who’s sitting or standing alone, and that in itself can serve as an icebreaker. Once you’ve found a conversation partner, the only thing left to do… is talk!
Conversation starters for dinner with friends
Friends are people you’ve met and become close with due to some sort of shared experience, right? Maybe you went to school together, maybe you played on a co-ed softball team, maybe you bonded over your distrust of the weirdly chewy mac-and-cheese in the office cafeteria of your first job out of college.
Either way, the key to keeping and building on these friendships is by adding new experiences and memories to the mix. And what’s a great way to make new memories? Hosting a dinner party.
If the idea of keeping everyone entertained between sips and chews at the dinner table makes you quiver, here are a few surefire conversation topics to get things going.
#1 What TV shows are you binge-watching?
Forget about primetime television—these days, it’s all about the binge watch. And with so much must-see-TV premiering at any given time, it’s more than likely that you and your buddies have been spending your evenings with different casts of characters.
If you and your friends watch different shows, asking them about which ones they love and which they hate-watched is a great way to get non-algorithm-based recommendations for yourself, and find out which ones aren’t worth your screen time. If it turns out your friends have watched the same series as you, you can chat about what you liked and what you didn’t. (P.S. If you and your friends are more into reading than streaming, that works, too!)
#2 Do you have any travel plans coming up?
If your friends are the traveling type, odds are they’ve either got upcoming travel plans, they’ve recently returned from vacation, or at the very least, they have a slew of fantasy trips on their mind. Even if they haven’t filled out their travel spreadsheets or purchased travel books yet—or if they don’t quite have the funds to actually book anything right away—it can still be fun to talk about the places you want to visit, or even plan a group vacation together. Mykonos, anyone?
#3 What accounts are you obsessed with on TikTok or Instagram?
Love it or hate it, scrolling through social media accounts on our phone has become something of a new national past time. As a conversation starter, ask your friends which Instagram or TikTok accounts they can’t get enough of lately. You might just end up with a new favorite meme account, discover some home design inspiration, or master the latest viral dance moves. And by the way—if you run out of things to talk about, learning TikTok choreography or a new viral recipe (and then posting it, obviously) can be a fun, silly, and energizing way to get people engaged with one another.
“White” by Paperless Post.
Conversation starters for family get-togethers
Family can be a funny thing. Yours might be filled with people who know you better than anyone else, but when extended fam gets involved—we’re talking aunts, uncles, grandparents, second-cousins… the convo may not exactly flow. No matter what occasion is bringing together a bunch of your relatives—be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Eid, or Rosh Hashanah, or a family reunion or graduation party, you’ll need to arm yourself with conversation starters that steer clear of the common pitfalls like politics, money, etc. Here are some suggestions.
#4 What have you been cooking lately?
This is a good question to ask for a few reasons: Everyone loves food, and with restaurant prices on the up and up, eating at home is more of a thing than ever. . If there are members of your family who might as well add “Home Chef” to their LinkedIn profiles, take advantage and learn about some of their favorite tips and techniques. Bonus: Because you’re asking people in your family, you might even end up acquiring an old family recipe you’ve either never tried, or have forgotten about from your childhood.
#5 What was your favorite age and why?
Depending on how close to and comfortable you feel with your family members, “What was your favorite age and why?” can be a good conversation starter that will help you get to know them on a deeper level, too. It’s especially great to ask an older person who’s got a whole bunch of ages to choose from, and can tell you more about a certain time in their life that was so happy and exciting for them—possibly before you were even born.
#6 What was your dream job when you were a kid?
This is a potentially funny conversation starter, and a way to learn more about your family members. Depending on what time period they were children, their answers might be about professions you’ve never heard of before. It’s also a fun way to revisit your own childhood, and possibly unearth similar interests you share with people in your family.
Conversation starters for holiday parties
#7 What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
From making gingerbread cookies with Grandma to winning all your cousins’ chocolate Hanukkah gelt every freakin’ time you played dreidel together, it’s fun to share memories and traditions from different families and cultures. If your favorite traditions end up being similar, it can be something to bond over with the person or people you’re chatting with. And if your experiences are totally different, it’s a fun way to learn about different ways of celebrating and doing things.
#8 What was your favorite holiday gift from childhood?
You made the list, Santa (ahem) checked it twice, and when you opened it up on Christmas morning, it changed your little life forever. Or at least, that’s what it feels like. Whether you unwrapped a doll with plastic velcro gems or the Swiss Army knife you still carry with you everywhere, the toys and gifts we clung to as children can still tell a lot about us as adults. Start by mentioning your favorite, then ask about theirs. You can even turn it into a fun guessing game with participants anonymously writing down their all-time favorite holiday gifts, and then trying to match them up correctly.
#9 What’s your favorite holiday song?
As anyone who’s ever turned on the radio between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can attest, there are so many Christmas and holiday songs to choose from, and everyone’s got at least one they like more than the rest. Once you’ve shared your top picks—and maybe even sung a few bars—switch the subject to holiday songs you truly can’t stand. It’s a topic undoubtedly everyone has a strong opinion on, but that (more than likely!) won’t actually cause any hard feelings when all is said and done.
“Pineapple Party” by Linda and Harriet for Paperless Post.
Conversation starters for office happy hour
If you work in an office full-time—or even if you’re mostly remote—you might find yourself attending or even organizing a happy hour or field day get-together with your colleagues. Here are some work-appropriate conversation starter ideas that’ll get the chat flowing while still maintaining a certain level of professionalism. (Psst… If you’re in charge of the drink order, here’s a handy guide to choosing the right sparkling wine for your group.)
#10 What was your first job?
Resumés can be fascinating things—and a great way to get to know the people you work with every day. Early jobs tend to be convenient and somewhat random, so you never know what you’ll learn. So next time you’re picking teammates for your annual company-wide softball game, you’ll know to call that guy several desks over who delivered neighborhood newspapers ’til 9th grade.
#11 How do you like to spend your free time when you aren’t working?
Happy hour is an opportunity for you to get to know your coworkers better when they’re not on the clock, so it’s the perfect time to ask them about their other favorite activities. Learning about your colleagues’ varied interests—whether it’s rollerblading in the park, refurbishing model trains, or baking homemade dog biscuits—might just inspire you to try something new. You may even discover a new activity partner who’s been sitting at the desk across from you this whole time.
#12 If you could live in any time period, when would it be and why?
This is one of those interesting conversation starters that you can ask anyone, but it’s especially good for breaking the ice with coworkers who may have different answers and perspectives than you’d expect. Just be sure to keep your own job in mind: You might not want to admit you’d like to live in a time before Instagram if you’re a social media manager.
Conversation starters for networking events
Getting a conversation going at a networking event may feel slightly awkward, but it shouldn’t—after all, everyone is there to talk to each other, make connections, and hopefully learn something new. Sure, you can always chat with someone in line at the buffet about the cocktail weiners, but let’s dig into some more substantial party conversation topics that put in the work at networking events.
#13 What are your best tips for networking?
This one might sound painfully obvious at first, but is actually one of the most important questions you can ask someone at a networking event—especially if you (or they!) are new to the scene. The person you’re speaking with may end up giving you invaluable advice or a totally different perspective, which could end up benefiting your career and in turn, your life.
#14 What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
Avoid standard interview-type questions (strengths, weaknesses, etc.) while you’re at a networking event, and instead focus on the part of your conversation partner’s job they love the most. It’s a great way to learn about a person and their profession, as well as a chance to find out about different positions in your chosen field that may interest you in the future.
#15 What originally drew you to this industry?
This is a good way to learn about a person’s background, and is a lot more conversational than asking someone to recite their resume to you. Their career path may inspire your own, and it may turn out that you have more similarities in your backgrounds than you would have realized otherwise.
Conversation topics to avoid
If you’re in a group setting, it’s generally best to avoid these conversation topics (unless you’re 110% sure the people you’re with feel the same—and even then, maybe still don’t).
– Gossip about friends, family, or coworkers
– Personal finances
“Block Party” by Paperless Post and “Thanksgiving Essentials” by Paperless Post
Invitations that get people talking
Once you’re feeling confident in your conversation tactics, it’s time to round up your friends, family, or coworkers for a good old fashioned get-together with as little stress involved as possible. And with Paperless Post, hosting is easier—and more fun—than ever. Choose from hundreds of beautiful, clever, and customizable online invitations that’ll get your guests psyched to attend. You can even create a cool animated Flyer, customized with one of your favorite GIFs. Whichever style you choose, and however you choose to send it—via email, text, or shareable link—all Paperless Post invitations come with RSVP tracking included, so you’ll feel more prepared for your party.
Whatever kind of event you host, don’t think about it too hard. Just “RSVP” yes to entertaining, and let us take care of making sure all of your guests do, too.