Walking into a room full of strangers can be an intimidating experience, though it’s an essential task when it comes to the business world.

Each year Vision Travel, the largest Canadian-owned and operated travel management company helps transport over 100,000 business travellers to client meetings and conferences across the world. Brian Robertson, COO of Vision Travel, knows all too well the importance of these professional interactions and the need to grow your network.

“Toronto Pearson International Airport is Canada’s busiest airport with over 38 million yearly passengers. Think about the numerous connections that could be made from check-in to your seat on the plane,” says Robertson.

The business travel experts at Vision Travel have put together some of their top tried-and-true networking openers, so the next time you find yourself face-to-face with a potential professional connection, you’ll be ready to break that ice into a friendly chat.

At a Conference

“I saw on LinkedIn that you and I have both worked with _”
LinkedIn has over 380 million active users so chances are the people you intend on networking with have a profile on the popular professional social network. This is an easy way to make a connection, but keep in mind; this may require some research on your end beforehand.

“Do you have any other plans while you’re here for the conference?”
This is a great one-liner that allows you to explore what the individual plans on doing while in the area. You’ll get to know them beyond seminars and lunch and learns.

“What brings you to [conference/event name]?”
This classic one-liner invites the individual to talk about their profession and interest in the conference/event, encouraging them to let you get to know them a bit better.

On a Plane

“I noticed your [book/tablet/hot new tech device]. What do you think of it?”
If there’s one universal truth, it’s that people love to be asked for their opinion. The simple tactic will allow you to open up a conversation, starting off on a flattering foot.

“Maybe I could get your business card so we can connect again and finish our conversation?”
Build on your relationship by asking the individual to get together again sometime soon. This will allow for a follow-up networking rendezvous outside of meetings and conferences.

“Are you travelling for business or pleasure?”
Avoid the 4-hour sales pitch and get to know the person you’re sitting next to on a personal level. A friendly conversation establishes rapport and could result in a business card swap followed by new prospective clients.

At an Event

“This is a great venue. Have you been here before?”
If you have nothing in common, at least you have the fact that you’re both in the same location, which can be a great way to get the ball rolling. Questions like “What hotel are you staying at?” or “Where did you fly in from?” can kick start a conversation in no time.

“Those hors d’oeuvres they just brought out look amazing.”
No matter what situation you’re in, food is always a great common ground. This will allow you to open up the conversation and possibly even lead to you sitting next to that individual during dinner.

“What brings you to [insert locale]?”
People travel and attend events for a variety of reasons. Open-ended questions are a great way to spark a conversation and can show that you are interested in their journey of how they got to where they are now.