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15 Conversation Starters for Holiday Parties

A group of business colleagues sitting awkwardly at an office party

iStock/Getty/diane39

The good news is that everyone else feels awkward, too. Power through, connect, and congratulate yourself when you’re home. These icebreakers can help.

It’s that time of year again—holiday party season.

Whether it’s the office party or a more intimate gathering of friends and family, it’s best to be ready with a bevy of conversation icebreakers to avoid blank stares and awkward interactions.

Some of your coworkers, neighbors, or cousins may really open up if you just give them the chance. Try these 15 ideas for keeping the conversation flowing.

  1. Start with compliments. Do you like a certain guest’s style? Be sure to make sure they know it; everyone loves a genuine compliment. And, bonus, you’ll get to find out where they got their cool boots or fabulous hat.
  2. How do you know the host? An oldie, but goodie.
  3. Where did you grow up? Find out more details about guests without asking overly personal questions.
  4. Ask about upcoming holiday plans. Asking guests to share their holiday plans allows them to talk about their upcoming trip to Paris or how they feel about going back home after a 10-year absence. Either way, you’ll have plenty to talk about.
  5. Talk about current events. If you’ve read an interesting article lately, bring it up in conversation.
  6. How’s the weather? Asking about the weather may seem cliché. But with unusual weather happening all over the country this past year, talking about the weather is anything but boring.
  7. Did you travel anywhere exciting this year? Get some extra mileage out of that trip to Spain you took this summer. Talking about where you visited and asking about guests’ vacations will give you plenty to chitchat about.
  8. Ask guests to identify their favorite book or movie of all time. Who doesn’t like talking about their favorite media?
  9. What’s the worst movie you’ve seen lately? Who doesn’t like talking about media they don’t like?
  10. Share your opinion on the buffet. What’s the spread at the party like? Are you trying to figure out the ingredients in that tasty dip? Enlist a fellow partygoer to help you investigate.
  11. What’s your sign? Do you believe in astrology? Millennials are bringing astrology back, so knowing your sign is an easy way to stimulate conversation around the topic. Bonus: Saturn returns are a great topic for guests in their late 20s and early 30s.
  12. How was your year? This is particularly effective at end-of-year holiday and New Year’s parties. It gives guests a chance to get to know each other as well as offer personal details about themselves.
  13. Ask about family. If you run into people you know, ask about how Aunt Tina is doing. It shows you care.
  14. Recall shared memories. Remember that time Pete did drunken karaoke at the last office party? Reminiscing about memories in common can lighten up the mood and give guests the opportunity to laugh together.
  15. Talk about politics. Most lists like this will tell you to avoid talking about politics like the plague. However, if you know the crowd a bit and the scene is more intimate, bringing up politics can definitely stimulate conversation. If you don’t know who you’re talking to or you’re at the office party though, it’s best to leave politics and religion out of it.

"That Sounds Challenging"

  • These three words can change almost any conversation for the better. They show you' are sympathetic to the challenges of the other person's work or home life. They can also lead to a real and sincere conversation.

Feel Like Pushing the Envelope?

If you’re feeling bold, try these bonus ideas from the S&H editorial staff:

  • If you’re eating a slice of pie or some other tasty treat, try bringing an extra to someone who is sitting or standing alone. It’s a risky move if you don’t know the person well, but it can be rewarding. 
  • Ask a person what the most recent photo is on their phone. If you’re lucky, it will generate a good story. 
  • If you’re the party’s host, give everyone a name tag—with someone else’s name. It’s their job to find the person whose name is listed. This is a great way for people to get to know one another.
  • Rather than asking a person about their job, ask them what they do for fun. You may be surprised at their answer—and maybe you have something in common.
  • Is there a Nicole Kidman lookalike in the crowd? Ask them if they’re related. Maybe you can turn it into a fun party game by identifying other celebrity lookalikes at the party.

Need more inspiration to help create the perfect holiday drink? Try these three alcoholic beverages for healthier holiday spirits.


By Tequia Burt. Click here for more!

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