Best Conversation Starters

The best thing about conversation, and feedback, is that it enables the other person to gain a fresh perspective through ‘fresh eyes’.  You never know who you will meet at a networking event, what new things you might learn and how you might be able to help someone.

These questions will give you a great starting point as you venture into feeling more comfortable starting conversations. Remember… conversation (and networking for that matter) is like a muscle… the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes.

Best Conversation Starters

  1. How did you get started in your business?  Everyone loves to talk about their baby – their business baby that is.
  2. Who’s your ideal client?  If they haven’t nailed down who they really want to serve, their avatar, then this question will make them think.
  3. Who do you need to connect with?  Everyone needs to meet someone. 
  4. What aspect of your business are you most proud of?  There might be a certain sector, division, project, idea or concept that is performing really well and they might like to talk about it. 
  5. How can I help you grow your business?  Similar to question #3, but the answer may be broader than just who they need to connect with?
  6. What makes your approach to the industry different?  This is where a little bragging comes in to play.
  7. What’s your biggest challenge? Is there someone I know that might be able to help you with that?  The second part of the question is obvious, that’s why you are asking it. Sometimes just stating that you are willing to connect them with someone who might be able to help, shows that you care enough to help and that you are a true connector. 
  8. What advice would you give someone just starting in your business?  Everyone wants to feel as though their knowledge and wisdom matter; in fact it does. Many people have a great deal of tips in their toolkit that will benefit others.
  9. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?  This question is a loaded one – one that people will take a moment to ponder before answering. It’s every person’s dream!
  10.  Describe the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your business.  A little humor is a good thing and these stories are often ones you can share! Everyone has a war story.
  11. What do you enjoy most about your profession?  This question elicits a good, positive feeling.
  12. What significant changes have you seen in your industry through the years?  For a seasoned professional, who has the battle scars to prove it, this is their question.
  13. What do you see as the coming trends in your industry?  I love this question. It elicits great responses from new and seasoned business people alike.
  14. What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your business?  This is such a positive question. They are not likely to share their secrets but sage advice that you can likely share with others.
  15. What advice would you give another entrepreneur? From one entrepreneur to another, there is usually some sage advice to pass on.  It’s one of those ‘If I knew then what I know now’ type of questions.


  1. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?This can be a tough question to answer and one that may require some thought. They will likely stop and think really hard before answering this question.  Not a typical question, but one that is worth its weight in gold – for both of you! 
  1. What activities do you like to do outside of work?  This opens up a tonne of conversation, from travel, to sports, to recreation and more.

Networking and the art of conversation is a journey. Like I said earlier, conversation and networking are like muscles you use in exercising, the more you use them the easier it gets. Have fun and don’t forget to leave your comments. What’s your favorite conversation starter question and why? What’s your biggest challenge in starting conversations?

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Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 

Networking… For the Shy or Newbie

Uncomfortable attending events with large number of people and be expected to mix and mingle? You’re not alone. With a few strategies and tips you’ll be on your way to networking success.










Here are a few strategies to help overcome your anxiety.

  1. Focus on meeting a few people, not everyone in the room.
  2. If it’s a large group, break the room into visual sectors and focus on one part of the room – the left corner, the right corner.
  3. If you find someone that’s shy, a newbie, or someone who appears uncomfortable – go have a chat. Once introduced to each other, approach a group of people together and engage in their conversation. “Can we join you?”   There’s safety in numbers and having a new found networking colleague to help you with introductions can help alleviate anxiety.
  4. Be authentic, be real. If you’re nervous or it’s your first time attending, don’t be afraid to say so. If the person is comfortable they will help you feel more comfortable; if they are nervous you’ve immediately created an alliance of assimilation.
  5. Listen, listen, listen. Sometimes when we’re nervous we talk a lot. Learn to zip it and open your ears instead.
  6. Reciprocate and learn the art of giving. How can you help others? During the listening process you may learn a challenge they have, a need or a connection that would benefit them. The more you network, the bigger your personal network will become and the more people you will have to refer to others. Be a connector! Help people as often as you can.
  7. Practise your handshake. There’s nothing worse than a wimpy handshake. Men should not assume that women want a soft handshake. If you are in business, your handshake says a lot about you. A nice firm shake is best. Having said that, know your audience – if you are networking with seniors be mindful that they may suffer from arthritis and a firm handshake might cause them pain.
  8. Practise a little blurb about yourself and your company. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. If you ramble you won’t leave any time to hear from the other person. 30 seconds to 1 minute is perfect.
  9. Follow up with your new acquaintances. An email, a handwritten note or a phone are all effective ways to follow up and say “It was great meeting you”. If you promised to provide some details, then so quickly.  If you’d like to get to know them better, why not suggest a coffee date or ‘get to know you coffee’. These one-on-one meetings are often more comfortable for shy people, rather than large groups. Coffee dates are a great way to learn more about the person and their business, than you would generally learn in a quick conversation at a networking event. You just never know where a coffee date will produce; if you don’t need their product or service, you likely know someone who would benefit from an introduction and connection.

Have a couple of phrases in your back pocket to open up dialogue:

a)      How are things in the past month with your business? (you could be specific if there is a world          event that might have caused an upset in their business/industry).

b)      Have you had a great success that you’d like to share? (You can tailor this to something                  specific like branding, social media, marketing, etc.).

c)       What’s your biggest challenge right now?

These questions, no matter how different your two industries might be, could help you realize there are others with the same challenges as you. It also allows the other person to receive dialogue from ‘fresh eyes’ – someone from a completely different industry with a different perspective.

Have fun and enjoy the process.  The first couple of times are always the hardest.

If you come from a place of being authentic, being yourself and practicing the best skill of all – listening – you’ll be a networking rock star.

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Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 


What is “A Network”?

Why you need a network and why you should care

First, understand: everyone needs “a network”. The type of network is as individual as the person who creates one, whether it is a personal network or a business network. On any level, however, it is your circle of influence, a group of advisors or mentors. We build networks to create connections and to build relationships.

A network

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut /

“Success in any field, but especially in business is about working with people, not against them.”

― Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone

He believes that everything you achieve is WITH or THROUGH your relationships. And that our success is tied to those we know.

You should care whether or not you have a network because it can mean the difference between your success or failure.

Building a network

Start with your immediate need. Do you need a personal network or a business network? What kind of relationships do you need to build and what type of connections do you need to make?

Determine your need first, then define it.

Defining your network

Personal networks would be useful to build if:

  • You moved to a new city and you need to establish your personal connections.
  • Many of your friends have moved away.
  • You wish to have personal connections in new circles of influence.
  • You need a referral base of friends who can help with an apartment, a realtor, a doctor, a lawyer.

Most people already have a good established personal network—it’s your friends; the ones who “have your back”. You can call them for advice or referral to someone you need, like a realtor or doctor, and they are the ones you socialize with. Some contacts may be on the next outward level of connections—parents of your kids’ friends, kids’ coaches, your coach or personal development coach, etc. These are the broader personal contacts.

How big your personal network is and the levels of your network are very individual. You might expand your personal network by joining some groups where you share a similar interest, i.e. photography or running. Or start attending regular events of interest, i.e. opera, symphony, arts or cultural events, sports events. Try clubs with similar interests: wine clubs, book clubs or centres with other age or interest similarities, i.e. community centres, athletic gyms.

Business networks are useful to build if:

  • You have established who your avatar is, your ideal client, and you need to put yourself and your business in front of that demographic.
  • You are establishing a new business and seeking new clients, customers, suppliers or contacts.
  • You are in an existing business and are seeking new clients, customers or contacts.
  • You want to get out from behind your brand and start meeting people face to face.
  • You are looking for a new job.
  • You want to build an advisory team for your business.
  • You recognize the need to get out and meet new people to expand your business.

Many people have a small or reasonably sized business network. If you are looking to expand your business connections, you’ve got to “get out there” and network to meet new people in new businesses and industries.

Networking groups are a great way to increase your connections. Many groups will have their niche, so look at your need first (personal or business). For many people, business networking feels the most daunting and cumbersome, but it doesn’t have to be with a few strategies under your belt.

First look at your ideal client, if you’re not clear on this, networking could prove more challenging. By knowing who you want to meet, you’ve already overcome a major hurdle.

So put yourself out there, get connecting with others to build your personal or business network. The key is consistency in your attendance. Expect to make the commitment to yourself and others to build strong relationships, strong connections, and networks that will serve your needs and the needs of others.

Networking is the Art of Creating Connections AND Building Relationships

deb alcadinhoDeb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 

A First Impression is a Lasting Impression

Business woman making a first impression (shaking hands with a new client)

Image courtesy of stockimages /

There’s an expression: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” That adage holds true in every situation in life:

  • In business meetings.
  • At networking events.
  • At weddings.
  • In dealing with your customers face to face (off line).
  • In dealing with your electronic customers (online).
  • In a job interview.
  • In meetings with other parents.
  • In meeting your banking officer.
  • In meeting your child’s coach or teacher.

Every time you create a connection or build a relationship, you are reinforcing your personal brand and your company’s brand and THAT IS MAKING A FIRST IMPRESSION.

How many times have you met someone and instantly formed an impression?

I call it THE RULE OF TEN.

People make snap decisions in 1/10th of a second. And their opinion will most likely never change.

It takes 10 times longer to CHANGE someone’s perception of you than to make the right impression the first time.

Let’s think about that for a minute—10 times longer. Are they going to give you the opportunity to have 9 more points of contact? Or will they ignore or steer clear of you the next 9 times?

It’s too much of an investment in time, for both of you, to try to sort that out. So be on your game from the start.

The basic need of a business to gain and retain clients is fueled by the level of interaction you have with new business possibilities.

What do you need for your business to survive? CLIENTS and CUSTOMERS.

How do you get them? By opening up new business possibilities, such as:

  • Networking
  • Face to face interactions
  • Referrals which come from networking and face to face
  • Online sources
  • Media

Everyone you meet should be considered a potential new client. Like it or not, your potential new client—your audience—judges you instantly by your personal appearance and makes judgements affecting your credibility.

So having “one chance to make a first impression” is applicable whether you are meeting a single client or a room full of people.

If you want to continue to feed your client funnel, present yourself in the best possible way every time you step out your front door.

First impressions are lasting impressions.

Remember the Rule of Ten.

Why is it so important? You might be thinking: There will always be another event I can attend or There will always be another meeting with this person.


If you are in business you need to shift your thinking … Think of every event you attend as your personal billboard to present your personal branding and your company branding.

Every time you step out your front door, you are representing your business—you are the face of your business!!!

Honestly … You shouldn’t run out in your sweats, unless you are a personal trainer and it’s part of your company image. If not, and you’re caught looking less than attractive, guaranteed that will be the time you see someone really important—like a new client you just started working with.

Are you sick and sniffly? That will be the time you meet someone—when you’re not feeling the best about yourself. How many times has that happened? Inevitably that’s the time you see someone, and you feel like you have to apologize or qualify why you’re not looking your best.

Think of every event—wedding, business event, networking event, a business meeting—as a room full of prospective clients. Yes, you are still representing your business in social situations.

Networking is about building your brand—your personal brand and your company brand.

~ Deb

First Impressions – Your Personal Appearance

Confident business woman, concerned with personal appearance

Image courtesy of mrsiraphol /

Do you remember the old adage, “When you look good, you feel good”? Have you ever put on an expensive garment and felt like a million bucks? It truly shows!

Choose your best outfits in your power color, the color that your friends compliment you on and that you feel great wearing.

Wearing garments that are tailored, fit you well, are in colors that compliment your skin tone, and make you feel great – you exude confidence and:

  • You look and feel better.
  • You speak more boldly.
  • You carry yourself taller
  • You walk more confidently.
  • You shake hands more firmly.

You make a killer first Impression.

Here are some pointers to always look your best at networking events, business functions and events:

  • Plan ahead!
  • Know your audience.
  • Plan your attire to fit your audience.
  • Take the extra time to get dressed and groomed for the event because people WILL notice! Worse yet, they will certainly notice if your clothes are wrinkled, your shoes are scuffed, your nail polish is flaking or your perfume is too strong.
  • Pay attention to the small details – others will!

TIP: Never let them see you sweat. Panty liners attached to the underarms of your suit jacket work wonders to combat body odour, just don’t take off your suit jacket.

You may think personal grooming goes without saying, but how many times have you seen someone attend a function who didn’t pay attention to one or two details – and YOU noticed?

Watch your cleavage. You may have a great bosom, but the business arena is not the place to show them off.

  • Choose appropriate necklines. Sexy has its place, but it’s not in the business setting.
  • You don’t need the wrong kind of attention and you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.
  • Buy good quality support garments and have a bra properly fit by a qualified lingerie representative.
  • Your legs might be dynamite, but watch your skirt length.

The wrong kind of attention can be detrimental to your business – remember it’s your personal branding and your company branding.

If you want to be taken seriously, respected and build a solid personal brand, create a killer first impression!

deb alcadinhoDeb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed. 

What is Thought Leadership?

Woman holding lightbulb (to represent thought leadership)

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

There has been a bit of a controversy surrounding thought leadership in the last few weeks. It all started with a journalist decrying that she was paid to ghostwrite meaningless thought leadership content for white male CEOs. She raised the issue of how click- and traffic-driven websites cheapen and dilute real thought-provoking pieces by actual thought leaders.

Then Contently chimed in with its own analysis: that yes, there’s a problem with ghostwritten thought leadership pieces, but that not all content should be put in that somewhat sketchy basket. There’s legitimate, excellent brand journalism being done by companies that actually care about good writing.

All of this is a somewhat long introduction to a topic I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately: thought leadership. Leadership can be defined in many ways, but in essence, leadership is about being able to influence others to accomplish a common task.

Thought leadership, though, is somewhat more evasive. Can you influence people to think a common thing? Or is it about something else?

According to Wikipedia, the term was coined quite recently, in 1994. Thought leaders are basically experts in their field who get rewarded for their expertise. Rewards come in different forms: more clients, paid columns in major publications, keynote speeches at conferences, etc. A thought leader is someone who influences the direction of a certain field.

You could say that academics are thought leaders, especially when their research is influential. But with the help of the internet, anyone can now become a thought leader.

Why should you strive to become a thought leader?

Let’s be clear: thought leadership is not an easy goal to reach. To cut through the noise of those who only pretend to be thought leaders without the intellectual chops to support it, you’ll need edge, influence and forward thinking.

But being a thought leader (even a local one) has its own sweet rewards. Thought leaders are sought-after speakers at events and conferences. They write books and columns as well as their own blog. They drum up business (many thought leaders are actually solopreneurs!) and lead fantastic lives full of travel and free time for their families.

How can you become a thought leader?

Unfortunately, I wish there was an easy map to thought leadership to share with you. It’s my dream as well to become a thought leader, but I’m way, way early in this process. But I can tell you some things I’ve learned by meeting with other thought leaders.

First, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Many people with great ideas are never heard of because they’re shy. Every single person on this planet has a different and interesting perspective on what matters to him or her. Everyone has something to say. Some people just say it louder.

Follow the trends, but don’t be a sheep. It’s one thing to follow your field’s trends; it’s another thing to make them. Simply repeating what others have been saying is not going to make you a thought leader. When thought leadership is your goal, staying current means staying current on the bleeding edge. Last month’s trends are already old. You need to be talking about tomorrow’s trends.

Write, write, write. The road to thought leadership is paved with writing. Blog a lot. Publish in influential places. Write ebooks. Tweet. Practice makes perfect.

So you want to be a thought leader?

If I’ve convinced you of the value of thought leadership, congratulations! As the author of the Medium piece says, we definitely need more women in that circle. Your voice matters—let it be heard! ~Annabelle

Annabelle Bernard Fournier


Anabelle Bernard Fournier is a content strategist at Stikky Media, a Victoria-based digital marketing firm. She manages and writes for several blogs as well as email newsletters and other content channels. She enjoys well-crafted sentences, knitting lace shawls and riding her bike to work.