Starting off a conversation is one thing, but what can you say when you want to keep the conversation going? There are a few techniques you can use to help keep the conversation flowing, such as asking open-ended questions; using question tags; complimenting people; using lateral thinking, and elaborating on a topic.
Complimenting people usually works to get a conversation going. When you compliment someone they are more receptive to talking to you. You can try the following phrases, or replace them with something specific to the situation you are in:
I really like your t-shirt. Where did you get it from?
Your laptop looks really cool. I'm buying a new one soon. Would you recommend that one?
Your hair is amazing. Can you tell me where you get it done?
I really like what you said in the meeting about (x). Where did you learn that from?
It's always better to try to ask open-ended questions, rather than questions that can be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. This is a technique that interviewers use to get people talking. It can take a bit of practice, but it's really worth it because it works so well. Instead of asking, “Isn't the weather great today?”, you could ask, “What do you think of the weather?”; or instead of asking, “Do you like swimming?”, you can ask, “Where are your favourite places to swim?”.
Questions like these encourage your conversation partner to volunteer more information, or maybe even tell a story about their experience. You can try some of these open-ended questions:
Where do you think makes the best coffee around here?
Tell me about what you did at the weekend.
What do you think of that rain yesterday?
Have you anything special planned for your next vacation/holiday?
It's always good to ask questions about the other person. If you've just met for the first time, you might want to keep these pretty general. For example:
Are you from this area?
Do you come here a lot?
What do you work at (as)?
Do you like it around here?
Do you like working here?
You can ask for the other person's opinion about a topic or subject:
What do you think about that?
Do you have an opinion on...?
Do you have any strong feelings on...?
What do you think of...?
Has anything like that ever happened to you?
What would you do in that situation?
If you find you have something in common, here are some expressions you can use to talk further about the topic of interest:
I love cooking, too. What's your favourite thing to make?
I love dogs as well. What are your favourite kinds of dogs?
What made you decide to start windsurfing?
How did you get into music?
What is it about football that makes you love it so much?
If you want to appear and sound interesting, you could bring up a fact, or tell a personal story:
That reminds me of something I heard/read/saw...
Did you know that...?
Something similar happened to me...
Have you heard that...?
These expressions and techniques will help you in any conversation, to keep it going. The next page deals with Question Tags.