Office holiday parties are often rife with potential — and danger.
They can provide you with the chance to unwind with your office friends and make new connections. However, amidst the booze and dancing, there are also many opportunities to make a complete fool of yourself.
You definitely don’t want to go overboard with the drinking. What’s more, it’s important to come prepared to connect with people.
Business Insider previously spoke to Nicole Williams, a career expert and author of “Girl on Top” and “Wildly Sophisticated,” to get her top tips on how to strike up a conversation with anyone at the holiday party.
For starters, she suggests coming up with a list of people you’re hoping to talk to in advance. Then, she says, do some quick background research on them: skim their LinkedIn page, Twitter account, or blog.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to use any of her favourite questions and talking points, which we’ve compiled below.
Conversation starters for company leaders
1. I read that you went to…
Your go-to conversation starter should be something that demonstrates your interest in the person you’re talking to, Williams says. Plenty of things can work. She also suggests: “I read a report that you contributed to” or “I read a blog that you wrote.” Both are flattering and open-ended, likely to generate a conversation rather than a simple yes or no response.
2. How did you get into the industry?
A favourite topic, especially among executives, is how they got where they are today. Because of that, Williams thinks this question is particularly good for striking up a conversation with the CEO or another high-level company member. “People enjoy talking about themselves, and they enjoy reminiscing about what brought them to the work in the first place,” she says.
3. What’s one of your goals for 2017?
Another talking point with the CEO and top execs is goals for the upcoming year. Williams says asking this will help you understand what’s most important to the company and its leaders on a more personal level. Plus, once you know them, you can think about how to align your own goals with theirs.
4. What was the best piece of advice that you got early on in your career?
Williams admits that this query is a bit cliché, but says it’s still an effective way of connecting with higher-ups in your office. “You can ask for advice, insight, wisdom,” she explains. All of these will come off as flattering to the recipient.
Conversation starters for anyone
1. What’s one of your favourite parts of this job?
Williams says 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.
2. Have you seen any movies? What have you read lately?
The best part about these questions, according to Williams, is that they create endless follow-up questions. For example, if your coworker recently saw “Captain Phillips,” you can ask what he thought of it. If you’ve seen it too, you can have an entire discussion of it.
3. 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. Williams says everyone loves to talk about time off. It doesn’t matter if they travelled or stayed home — asking about vacation will help you learn what your coworkers enjoy doing and how they unwind away from the office.
4. Where do you find those great suits you sport in the office?
Writing on her website Works, Williams notes that it’s important to steer away from overly work-related topics. Instead, try to get a bit personal. Ask about your coworker’s life. Ask about what sports they play, where they went to school, or where they shop. “Find things in common and take the relationships to the next level. The more you listen and make meaningful connection, the more allied she’s going to be to your success,” Williams writes.
Lastly, Williams adds that it’s important to follow up on your conversations. If someone recommended a book to you, shoot them an email saying you got it and are looking forward to reading 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,” Williams told Business Insider. That’s how you build a relationship that will last beyond the holiday party.
This is an updated version of an article written by Alison Griswold.
NOW WATCH: Here’s what it’s like to attend one of NYC’s most exclusive dinner parties where nearly 5,000 people dress in white
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.