The Meetings Show
Emirates Old Trafford
Smart Group - Electric Xmas

The best ways to start a conversation when networking


Face-to-face conversations are becoming a thing of the past as high-tech devices lead us to live ‘isolated’ lifestyles, it has emerged.

A survey of 2,000 Brits found 54 per cent think the rise of technology now means they have fewer personal face-to-face conversations than they did five years ago.

As a result, the average Brit often goes more than 24 hours without speaking to a soul in person, meanwhile one in ten have gone longer than three whole days without a face-to-face interaction with another human being.

Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist and spokesperson for Novotel, said: “Technology has made our lives more convenient, and we are supposedly more connected than ever before. But our research suggests that, despite having more ways to interact with one another, we are beginning to feel the absence of that particular connection we experience when we speak face to face.

“With all our tech we mustn’t overlook the importance of honest, from the heart human interactions with one another. A simple conversation can have a real impact, and is a great way to show that you care and really want to engage.”

The study also found 23 per cent have a subject or hobby they are interested in but which they have no one to talk to about. 41 per cent wish they had more people in their lives to talk to face-to-face.

Despite more high tech methods of communication, 72 per cent of Brits still think a meeting face-to-face is still the best way to get to know someone. Almost half feel their mental health is benefited by interacting with people in the flesh rather than through a screen, 46 per cent feel calmer after a good heart-to-heart with someone, and one in four feel they are able to ‘reset’ their emotions to a healthier state after getting something off their chest.

When meeting someone for the first time, the weather is most likely to be our first topic of discussion, followed by sport and news and current events.

When we are with our friends, sport and current events are the subjects we most enjoy chewing over with pals. When we are out of our comfort zone, travelling away from home, one in four Brits think they are likely to feel lonely with no one to talk to, though over a third of those polled in the survey, conducted by, have overcome any social anxiety and made a friend during their stay at a hotel or while travelling on the road.

Spelman added: “It can be hard to admit to being lonely, and yet loneliness is one of the commonest of human emotions. We evolved as a social species and it is natural for us to want to seek out others and be with them.

”Modern technology can be a bridge between people — but it can also be a barrier that separates them. When we can send messages to people in real time from far away, it might seem like we are communicating with them, but it’s not the same. Face-to-face contact with others is actually very important for our mental health, so it’s wise to make time to see others, and to communicate with them in a meaningful way.”

Popular topics of discussion when meeting somebody for the first time: 

  • The weather
  • Sport
  • News and current events
  • Music
  • Family
  • Work
  • Food
  • Romantic relationships

Dr Becky Spelman’s top tips for starting a conversation:

1. Ask about themselves: Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so it is a good idea to start by asking people a few questions about themselves and their interests. Without being too intrusive, ask them about their likes and dislikes, whether or not they have children, and what their hobbies are. If you display a genuine interest in them and their lives, you will find that conversation flows much more easily.

2. Know that everyone is interesting: Did you know that everyone is interesting? It’s true! You might not find everyone interesting at first, but when you start communicating with one another and listening to each other’s stories if you really listen with interest and openness, you can’t help getting drawn into the other person’s life and you will connect with them on an emotional level.

3. Remember that you are interesting: Remember that you are an interesting, fascinating person with a lot to share. Sometimes people are reluctant to start a conversation because they worry that they are not interesting enough. That’s nonsense! Everyone is interesting, and you are no exception. So what if your family has heard all your stories a million times before? If you are starting to have a conversation with someone new, the great thing is that they’ve never heard your stories and are a brand new audience for them!

4. Establish common ground: Finding common ground can be a great conversation starter. You don’t have to have a lot in common with someone in order to communicate, but it can be really helpful to find something that you share. Even with someone who seems at first to be very different to you, there’s bound to be a point of connection; you just need to find it. Maybe you both love sun holidays, or you are both struggling with a teenage child right now, or you are secretly dreading Christmas; once you’ve found something in common, no matter how small or inconsequential, it will be easier to talk.

5. Don’t rush to judgement: If you try to start a conversation with someone but you’ve already made a series of assumptions about them because of how they are dressed, their accent, their body language, or whatever, you are already creating barriers between you. Be open-minded. Think about how this person before you has a full, rich life, just like you, and be curious to know more about them. You may well find that your assumptions are completely wrong and that you have just found a new friend.


Dr Becky Spelman

Dr Becky Spelman