185 Fresh conversation starters and topics for work events

Starting a conversation isn’t easy. Whether you’re trying to connect with co-workers or brushing up on your skills for talking to strangers, being able to break the ice is a huge skill that takes lots of practice.

The fact is that many people draw a blank even when talking to people they know. The good news is that human beings tend to have more in common than they realize.  That means there’s no shortage of ways to begin interesting conversation. After years of working with companies planning events, we’ve learned a lot about the best conversation starters. Dive into this list and pick some out to keep in your pocket. Without further ado, let’s start chatting! 

Great general conversation topics for any gathering

You can’t go wrong with these options. These are some of the most simple and effective conversation starters to use in any situation. Whether you’re trying to build a closer relationship with your boss or get to know a new co-worker, these topics are all reliable, non-controversial, and a little bit fun.

  1. What do you do for fun? Be sure to share your hobbies as well. 
  2. Share a recent vacation or travel plans. 
  3. Food. Consider what’s being served or share your favorites. 
  4. The weather - a classic!
  5. Pop culture
  6. Current events (in general, avoid politics or religion)
  7. Recent media happenings or big stories they have followed
  8. Office happenings (without getting into office gossip)
  9. Upcoming holidays and associated plans
  10. Home news (moving, remodeling)
  11. National sports. Who do they follow and who do you like?
  12. Latest technology. Share your latest app download. 
  13. Family 
  14. Pets
  15. Goals

Conversation starters for a work environment

One major benefit of work retreats or offsites is building relationships and trust. The only way to do that is to get to know people better. You can learn a lot about your colleagues by going beyond “how is the weather?” conversations. These questions offer plenty of opportunity to move past surface-level conversations and discover what really matters to people. Most people enjoy talking about their family, their hobbies, or their last vacation. You can’t go wrong by inquiring about these subjects.

  1. How is your family? 
  2. How is your day going? 
  3. How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun? 
  4. What are you up to this weekend? What are you most excited for? 
  5. What projects are you working on currently? Which is your favorite? 
  6. Are you enjoying this weather? 
  7. Do you have any vacations coming up? When and where? 
  8. What are your hobbies? Don’t be afraid to share your own. 
  9. Do you belong to any clubs? How did you get involved? 
  10. Do you have pets? What are their names? 
  11. Do you have photos of your kids or pets? 
  12. Do you have any siblings? Where do they live?
  13. What’s your favorite book? How long ago did you read it? 
  14. What’s the latest great book you’ve read? Why did you love it? 
  15. Have you seen any good movies lately? 
  16. What TV shows do you like to watch? What’s your favorite thing about a particular show? 
  17. Do you listen to music at work? 
  18. Do you have a favorite playlist you can share? 
  19. How long have you lived in the city? 
  20. Where were you born? 
  21. Did you see the latest local sporting event? 
  22. Do you plan to go to [local event]? 
  23. How long have you worked here? Where did you work before? 
  24. Do you like the snacks or coffee in the break room? 
  25. Can I grab you anything while out to lunch? 

Less generic conversation starters

Obviously, you speak to more than just your colleagues on any given day. Though it’s great to have ideas to apply to your work environment, it’s also a good idea to be able to break the ice with anyone. Interacting with strangers is part of life. You don’t have to be so nervous about it as long as you’ve researched some conversation starters. Coming up with questions designed to really make people think will make you more memorable and engaging.

  1. What was your favorite show as a kid? Why? 
  2. Have you ever forgotten about something for years and then suddenly remembered? 
  3. Has a stranger ever made a big impact on your life? 
  4. Who is a stranger that you’ll never forget meeting? 
  5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Why did it make such an impact? 
  6. What’s some unsolicited advice you’ve received? Was it beneficial or not? 
  7. Have you ever experienced a really strange coincidence? 
  8. If there is one thing you could change about the world, what would it be? 
  9. What is your pet peeve? 
  10. Do you have any phrases that drive you crazy? 
  11. What would you buy if you won the lottery? 
  12. Do you have a bucket list? Have you completed any of the items? 
  13. If you have a bucket list, what’s the first item? 
  14. Have you ever found something really cool while cleaning? 
  15. What is a charity you care about? Can you explain why? 
  16. If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing? 
  17. If you were tasked with writing a book, what would it be about? 
  18. Are there any non-work goals you’re trying to achieve? 
  19. What’s the coolest place you’ve ever been? Will you ever be able to go back? 
  20. Have you ever had a serious injury? How did it happen?
  21. Have you ever had an injury from doing something silly? 
  22. Can you talk about something that humbled you? 
  23. What is one thing you’d like to do for the rest of your life? 
  24. What is your morning routine like? 
  25. Is there anything that you hope to never have to do again? 
  26. What is one skill you really hope to learn? 
  27. What is one talent that sets you apart? 
  28. What would you like to be remembered for? 
  29. Are you named after anyone? 
  30. Does your name mean anything? 
  31. Do you have a prized possession? 
  32. If there was a fire and you had 10 minutes to spare, what would you grab? 

Humorous conversation starters

Using humor in conversation is a fail-proof way to break the ice. Naturally, you have to read the room and use humor when it’s appropriate. It’s likely not the best idea to start tossing these questions to your neighbors as soon as your CEO comes on stage to speak. That being said, including humor in your conversation efforts will make you stand out. Who wouldn’t want to hear about the funny musings of a child or silly quirks of a pet? 

  1. Describe the strangest person you’ve ever met. 
  2. Do you have a fear of quicksand? Anything else? 
  3. Is there a random word that you can’t stand? 
  4. Have you ever been hypnotized? 
  5. What celebrity do you believe could be an alien? 
  6. What is the most random dream you’ve had lately? 
  7. Which daily task do you constantly procrastinate?
  8. What is the funniest thing a child has ever said to you? 
  9. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever told a child? 
  10. What is the silliest thing you believed when you were young? 
  11. What bugs you about your pets? 
  12. What silly quirks do you think you have? 
  13. If you were a Disney villain, who would you be? Why? 
  14. If you were an evil villain, where would your lair be? 
  15. If your pet could talk, what would they say to embarrass you? 
  16. Who is your weirdest relative? Any funny stories to share? 
  17. What is the most bizarre conversation you’ve ever overheard? Where did it take place? 
  18. What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard in an elevator? 
  19. What was your most awkward date? 
  20. What is the craziest thing that’s ever happened to someone you know? 
  21. Have you ever experienced a comical misunderstanding? 
  22. What seemingly inconsequential thing gets you really fired up? Can you explain why?
  23. What always makes you laugh? 
  24. What is supposed to be funny that you never find comical? 
  25. Have you ever laughed so hard that you cried real tears? 
  26. If you wanted to inconvenience everyone you work with in a minor way, what would you do? 
  27. Have you ever pranked someone? 
  28. What would your reaction be if you got pranked by someone in your office? 

Conversation starters for work meetings

Work meetings don’t need to be so serious. If part of the meeting involves meeting new people - such as when you meet with a vendor or potential client - these topics are a great way to get to know more about them and make sure they’re comfortable. These topics also make great “around-the-horn” questions where everyone can participate. The meeting leader can pick one or two questions and have everyone take turns giving an answer.

  1. Name one new thing you learned this week. 
  2. Describe one thing you are grateful for this week. 
  3. What is the best meal you’ve eaten at this retreat/meeting? 
  4. Have you had any important wins lately that you want to share? 
  5. Explain an unexpected challenge that you ran into at work lately. 
  6. Have you ever had a “funny fail” that you can describe? 
  7. Have you discovered anything cool lately? 
  8. Describe the nicest conversation or interaction you’ve had at work. 
  9. Name one nice thing a coworker or client went out of their way to do for you. 
  10. If budget was no object, explain a perk that you would like the company to implement. 
  11. Talk about what you’re most excited about in the coming business quarter. 
  12. How do you like to decompress after work? 
  13. Explain your typical morning routine. 
  14. What is one thing that brings you joy right now? 
  15. Do you have any good work hacks that you want to recommend to the team? 
  16. Do you like Zoom meetings or in-person meetings better? 
  17. Do you prefer morning or afternoon meetings? 
  18. What is the strangest excuse you’ve ever heard someone use for being late to a meeting or event. 
  19. Can anyone here do a great celebrity impression? 
  20. What snack should the company stock in the break room? 

Conversation starters for larger work events

It’s very common for large organizations to hold all-hands meetings or retreats so that people from different departments or offices can mingle and network. You’ll want to make the most of this time by meeting new people who are working toward the same goals as you are. Chances are, at some point during the retreat, you’ll be seated next to someone that you either don’t know or don’t know well. Most of these topics apply to a working environment, so they keep your mind on the business at hand while allowing you to nurture new relationships. 

  1. Have you ever been to an event like this one before? 
  2. Have you ever been to this event venue before? 
  3. What are you eating or drinking right now? 
  4. Are you planning to attend [a different work event]? 
  5. Where would you like to see the next event take place? 
  6. Are there people here that you do not know? 
  7. Did you notice [something cool about the event space]? 
  8. What’s the latest news from your department? 
  9. What are your thoughts on [recent company news]? 
  10. If you weren’t here right now, what would you be doing? 
  11. What do you want to talk about in this event? 
  12. What would be the best takeaway from this event? 
  13. Are there people here you think I should connect with? 
  14. Is there anyone here you are hoping to be introduced to? 
  15. What part of the event are you most excited about? 
  16. Will you be staying for the entire event? (for longer retreats)
  17. Have you met [new employee]? 
  18. What is a good habit that has significantly improved your life? 
  19. What accomplishment are you proudest of? 
  20. What is your go-to ice-breaker when you meet someone new? 

Conversation starters for work lunches

Have you ever gone to lunch with someone you don’t know well and struggled with awkward, stilted conversation? You can scrap the strange pauses and move directly into interesting and enjoyable discussions by trying some of these topics. They are light-hearted, pertaining to things like the restaurant choice, food, and other work and world happenings.

  1. What do you think you’ll order? 
  2. Have you ever eaten at this restaurant before? 
  3. Do you like to have dessert? 
  4. Do you want to split a dessert with me? 
  5. Are you allergic to any foods? 
  6. What are your favorite restaurants in the city? 
  7. What other great restaurants have you been to lately? 
  8. Do you like any podcasts or have any recommendations? 
  9. Do you like to cook? 
  10. What is your favorite thing to cook? 
  11. Do you have any great recipes to share? 
  12. Did you see [a recent viral video]? 
  13. Tell me your three favorite movies of all time. 
  14. Which actor/actress would play you in a movie of your life? 
  15. What is the most recent photo on your phone? 
  16. Who is the subject of the most photos on your phone? 
  17. Which app do you use the most? 
  18. How do you plan to use [new work perk]? 
  19. If you could have lunch with anyone in the world who would it be? 
  20. Are there any foods that remind you of your childhood? 
  21. What is your favorite snack and how do you make it? 
  22. What is the most surprising thing you learned at work?
  23. Do you have a special, secret talent? 
  24. Do you have a “happy place” and where? 
  25. What is your favorite thing about where you live? 
  26. What is your favorite feature of your home? 
  27. What is the most important thing in a friendship between colleagues? 
  28. Are there any items you have saved since childhood? 
  29. What was your best impulse purchase? 
  30. Do you have any experiences that you were dreading, but turned out great? 

Conversation starters for work parties

Work parties are especially popular around the holiday season, but they can occur for any reason. Whether your office is celebrating a big client win, an anniversary, or an important milestone, parties are the most fun when everyone is comfortable. Try memorizing some of these questions to get a better understanding of your colleagues while having fun.

  1. Have you been to the buffet yet? 
  2. Have you heard what’s in the goodie bags? 
  3. Do you plan to dance at this party? 
  4. Is this your first company party?
  5. Did you attend the holiday party last year? 
  6. Have you ever won any of the giveaways from these parties? 
  7. What do you think of the decorations? 
  8. Is your holiday wrapping completed? 
  9. What are your other holiday plans? 
  10. What does your family like to do in the holiday season? 
  11. Will you make a new year's resolution? 
  12. Are you hosting anyone for the holidays? 
  13. Where did you get your outfit/dress? 
  14. What is your favorite thing to bring to a party? 
  15. Do you have a go-to hostess gift for parties? 

Your next team-building offsite is the perfect place to try out your newfound conversation starters. Having some great topics to choose from should take away some of the anxiety of getting to know people better. If you’re in charge of planning such an event, use this list to facilitate a dialogue that strengthens everyone’s work relationships.

Surf Office is here to help. Contact us today to speak to one of our experts and get help with the tricky logistics like finding the venue, organizing transfers, and planning team-building activities. At Surf Office, everything we do is designed to get your employees out of the office and ready for an experience that will boost team spirit.

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