Starting a conversation at a conference

I’ve been asked a few times how to start a conversation with people. It’s not easy or always natural or something you want to be in the mood for so I’ve compiled some stuff i share with people when i give talks. 

Make sure you eat well and stay hydrated!

Make sure we’re fuelled up and not hangry.If I’m hungry i’ll be in a bad mood, starting conversations with people only makes peopel dislike me. I can usually solve this with food and a cup of tea.

Assign yourself the Greeter role.

Toastmasters have this role called a Greeter at their meetups. When it’s a designated role that you are assigned, it helps me give myself permission to talk to other people.

The Greeter's role is to welcome everyone to the club meeting, particularly visitors and people who are new. Making everyone feel welcome at our club is important, as this may be the start of their journey.
Toastmaster’s definition of the  Greeter’s Role 


Tweet out you want to meet new people.

It might seem wierd, but many people attend events on their own and are looking to meet new people. Use the Hashtag of the event and tweet out that you want to meet new people and would love to talk to people about partiulcar topic.Include a picture of what you are wearing  so people know what you look like and can find you.

Start a conversation.

Starting a conversation isnt easy. Having conversation starter questions helps. Here is a bunch of questions I frequently ask:

  • Have you travelled far?
  • What kind do you do with WordPress?
  • What session are you planning?
  • Been to any interesting sessions?
  • What did you think of the topic?
  • How did you get started with WordPress?
  • Comment on the weather.

Engage Pac-Man rule

If you haven’t heard about the pac-man rule, then read more about it  on Eric’s blog post about it.The it tries to solve the problem of allowing new people to join conversations, by giving people explicit permission to join groups.

The rule is:

When standing as a group of people, always leave room for 1 person to join your group.

More memorably, stand like Pac-Man!

The new person, who has been given permission to join your group, will gather up the courage, and join you! Another important point, the group should now readjust to leave another space for a new person.

Leaving room for new people when standing in a group is a physical way to show an inclusive and welcoming environment. It reduces the feeling of there being cliques, and allows people to integrate themselves into the community.

Eric Holscher

Break the Clique

It is habit that we all hang out. we’re comfortable with each other as a company as its less effort for us overall. Eric also wrote a post called Break the Clique.

The Community++ Rule [1]

The rule is:

For every year you have attended the event, you should try to meet that many new people each day.

An example makes it clear:If you have attended this event for three years, you should try to meet three new people each day.

Consider this your encouragement to do the Community++ Rule.

Eric Holscher

People are just people

People don’t always want to talk about work, or tech, they are people afterall, so ask a random question to break the ice.

Set yourself a challenge to meet X number of new people and find out if they prefer cats or dogs, if they are Team Tea or Team Coffee.

You’ve got this.

You at some point already met a bunch of new people. We are continually doing this and the event you are going to will be no different.

You’ve got this.

Have a personal favourite? 

If you have any tips or tricks on how you start conversations with people, please share them. I would love to know how others cope with meeting new people. 

One Reply to “Starting a conversation at a conference”

  1. I remember how welcoming and open you were back in ScotlandPHP 2017. You definitely did your part to make sure everybody was feeling included in conversation! I love these tips, as I always suffer from a bit of fear of meeting and getting to know new people! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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