The 17 best icebreakers to use at awkward social events

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If you listen closely after someone asks, “So what do you do?” you can almost hear the other person’s eyes roll as they recite their 30-second elevator pitch.

But talking to new people doesn’t have to be such a drag.

There are ways to get the conversation going without resorting to irritating clichés.

Check out these 17 icebreakers that will help ease you into an engaging conversation with people you’ve never met before.

'What kind of volunteer work do you do?'

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Asking people about their volunteer work will open up 'a world of wonderful conversation,' writes strategy consultant Alice Korngold on fastcompany.com.

Korngold says she especially enjoys meeting people who work on nonprofit boards because she gets to learn about how an organisation was founded, how the person got involved with it, and about the 'fascinating group dynamics of boards.'

'Are you originally from (wherever the event is), or did your business bring you here?'

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This question will help you jumpstart an engaging conversation with ease because 'it doesn't feel like you are asking for a stiff elevator speech,' national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas Diane Gottsman tells U.S. News & World Report.

The conversation will allow both parties to talk about themselves, which is the ultimate goal of career-savvy people attending a network event, Gottsman says.

'Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it's a little quieter?'

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Find someone on the outskirts of the ongoing conversations and introduce yourself, says Ariella Coombs, content manager for CAREEREALISM.com.

Since they are alone and possibly looking miserable, they are probably uncomfortable with the social situation, Coombs says. By initiating the interaction, you can help to put them at ease and get them in the flow of a conversation.

'I'll be honest, the only person I know here is the bartender, and I just met him two minutes ago. Mind if I introduce myself?'

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While a networking event is not the best place to try out your latest comedic routine, The Daily Muse says humour is a good method to put another attendee at ease and jumpstart a lighthearted conversation.

Other suggestions include, 'So, on a scale of 1 to undrinkable, how terrible is the Chardonnay?'

'What's your reality-TV guilty pleasure?'

Brian Bowen Smith/E!

Almost everyone watches at least one show that they're at least a little embarrassed about, ZinePak cofounder Brittany Hodak tells Inc., and she says sharing those guilty pleasures with a stranger is fun.

'It's funny how quickly you can bond with someone who admits to sharing your secret obsession,' Hodak says.

Did you catch the game yesterday?

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'Well, you guys are certainly having more fun than the last group I was talking to.'

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Comedy Central

If all else fails, try something totally random that just might work, writes The Daily Muse, like inserting yourself into an engaging conversation by commenting on how fun their group looks from the outside.

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