19 Nov

Conversation starters help parties flow

Well regarded etiquette experts say money, religion and politics should be avoided in polite conversation. But without those topics to discuss and debate, how can partygoers ignite conversation?

Flowing conversation can keep parties moving and make them feel more engaging. Silent moments can be deafening and awkward. The following are some conversation starting tips hosts and guests can fall back on when silence is trying to intrude on the festivities.

· Enlist a nomenclator. Did you know that, in ancient Rome, senators hired nomenclators to follow them around and introduce them to people? While a good host or hostess usually does this at modern events, sometimes hosts are too busy to introduce everyone. Find a friendly face at a party and ask this individual to introduce you to as many people as possible. Ask this trusted friend for tidbits of information you can use to strike up subsequent conversations.

· Steer conversations toward interesting things. According to Rico Gagliano, coauthor of "Brunch is Hell: How to Save the World by Throwing a Dinner Party," categories such as science, unusual cultural or arts exhibits, and portmanteaus (new words made out of two other words) can spark conversation. For example, break the ice by speaking about "blowtox," a trend in which people receive Botox injections into their scalps so their blowout hairdos won't re-curl. That's certain to spark some conversation that should lead in an interesting direction.

· Ask others about themselves. Engage others with open-ended questions, such as "Have you done anything new or interesting lately?" This may be a catalyst for conversation, and many people will reciprocate with questions about you.

· Choreograph the conversation. If the host hasn't thrown out a few ice breakers, take it upon yourself to start a conversation. Have a list of clever questions or topics at the ready. Some can include, "Who is your favorite comic?" "What's the strangest thing you've ever purchased?" "What's your prediction for the next binge-worthy series on Netflix?" "What's the best piece of advice you live by?" "Are tacos or pizza the better comfort food?" Keep questions lighthearted and encourage as many people as possible to give their own answers.

Dinner parties and other social occasions tend to be more enjoyable when the conversation is flowing freely.

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