Lunch with ready-made conversation starters – for conferences

Last year I expressed “Dinner with a Stranger” as a pattern for Conferences. Now I’d like to suggest an alternative (or add-on?):

At OOP 2013 I once again realized, how bad I am at chatting up strangers without a decent conversation starter. I mean, I consciously make myself sit a table with other people and then, more often than not, I’m not brave enough to start a conversation. Although “Meeting new people” is very high on my list of reasons for attending conferences.

So here’s my latest idea:
At the entrance of the mess hall, lay out stacks of cards: One stack per table. One card per seat. Each card has the following information:

  • Table number
  • Conversation starter

The conversation starter is a random question such as:

  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What’s your favourite Simpson character and why?
  • What book are you currently reading?
  • Which song makes you embarassed that you really love it?
  • What were you doing when the Berlin wall came down?
  • Cats or dogs?
  • What did you want to become as a child?
  • Who’s your hero?
  • What’s your favourite band?

Then when someone new sits down, the conversation starter can be “So, what conversation starter do you have?”. Having the card and everyone being in on the question-thing, gives uptight western European people, such as me, permission to chat up strangers.

What do you think? Worth a try? E.g. at ALE 2013? Drop me a line! I’d love to come up with all sorts of conversation starters 😀

PS: On second thought, I’d leave out a few tables for weary people who are not in the mood for talking or want to talk in peace to someone they already know. Maybe have “Thanks, I’ll pass”-cards with just a table number as well?

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