In India, a ‘namaste’is regularly used as a business greeting rather than a handshake. Using this gesture will convey your understanding of Indian etiquette. In China, it is rude to say “no” when discussing business. Instead, you should respond with “I’ll think about that,” or “I will look into that.” Each culture around the globe has its own unique business etiquette, and it is wise to know your culture’s own guidelines if you wish to be successful in business networking and conversation.

You’ll notice that here in America, there are certain questions that do not go over well and seem inappropriate in a business conversation. For example, Americans tend to consider their political affiliation, including details of whom they voted for, to be personal. Political topics are not a good icebreaker.

Instead, select a more neutral and conversation starter. Five good business conversation starters are:

  • Current events with a positive tone.
  • Sports, especially your town’s home teams.
  • The event or job at hand, such as an interesting detail about the networking event’s sponsoring company. Or if you’re at a restaurant, bring up your favorite dish or drink.
  • Personal hobbies or interests, such as where you went to school, how many children you have, or a charity you contribute to.
  • Pay a compliment to the person, but don’t make it too personal, such as a compliment of his tie knot, or of her shoes.
  • If you are dining in a restaurant, don’t jump into business conversation too quickly. Wait until people have placed their orders, or until the host has brought up the business topic.

General guidelines for appropriate business conversation in America are:

  • Do not interrupt.
  • Do not finish other people’s statements for them.
  • If someone says or does something rude, politely excuse yourself or change the subject. Don’t be accusatory.
  • Until you are specifically invited to use someone’s first name, address that person with his or her title and last name.
  • Avoid criticizing others, such as your boss or coworkers.
  • Keep conversations short and moving along. Try to limit your responses to about 60 seconds.

While having a business conversation, whether it is at a networking event, during a day at the office, or at a meeting, your conversation need not be “formal” or “stuffy,” but it should always be polite and courteous. Make sure to listen as well as you speak. Make eye contact and stand with your shoulders pointed towards the other person, which indicates that you are paying attention.

One place where people tend to fumble most in business conversation is in underestimating the necessary degree of formality during a second meeting. If you recall meeting a person at a prior networking event, then you see him again at another one, don’t automatically assume that you will be chummy. Address him or her with an appropriate degree of formality. If he or she seems super relaxed, you can then lessen your formality to meet his or her attitude. Don’t try to guess a person’s sense of humor when you have only met him or her once before, as this may cause you to overstep your bounds or make a bad impression. And if you forget his or her name, don’t worry! Just extend a hand and gracefully say something to the effect of, “It was such a pleasure meeting you last time, but I am sorry I have forgotten your name.” You are sure to be quickly forgiven.

Author: Michael Taylor is a Marketing Manager at TIE SNUG. TIE SNUG eliminates continuous adjusting and makes wearing a tie more comfortable. Knowing the current tie styles is an important step when deciding what to wear to an interview. Feel confident that you look your best with TIE SNUG. For more information or to make a purchase, please visit
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