Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Welcome to another installment of Tipsy Talk, our regular feature that rounds up tips from top salonnieres on all things revelrous. Today, we’re getting tipsy with a few of our favorite conversationalists about how to kick-start a conversation with a dinner partner. Daniel, care to get the conversation going?
Daniel Menaker, author of A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation – Compliments are always nice as are open-ended questions like, “How do you spend your day?” or “What’s new in your world?”
Alexa Hampton, interior designer and author – I will first ask them about their work. People usually have a way they explain their job, or how they spend their day, so they can feel comfortable answering this. I also like to ask people what they are reading. Strangely, I think of this as a more personal question.
Teri Agins with author and Vogue contributor Andre Leon Tally
Teri Agins, author of Hijacking the Runway and fashion columnist for the Wall Street Journal columnist – My favorite icebreaker is to find something to compliment them on – their outfit, hairstyle, handbag, shoes…something. I ask them to tell me about it, so the person can’t just respond with a simple thank you. Then I jump in with follow-up questions. That usually gets them going.
Ashley McDermott, writer and philanthropist – I like to ask, “When and where were you happiest in your life?”
Debi Lilly, event designer and author of A Perfect Event: Inspired, Easy Elegance for Every Occasion – I find everyone loves to eat and talk about eating and share what and where they’ve been eating! So I ask, “Have you been to any great new restaurants lately?”
Frederick Anderson, president of lifestyle brand Hanley – I ask, “If you had the opportunity to meet one person you haven’t met who would it be, why and what would you talk about?”
Angella Nazarian (right) with Giada De Laurentiis
Angella Nazarian, author of Visionary Women and philanthropist – My favorites are, “If you could have an alternate career, what would it be?” and “What was your most embarrassing moment?” The answers always spark a lively conversation.
Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, author of Monograms for the Home and Southern Living and Today show contributor – I always lean on books or travel. They are my go-to topics. So I’ll say, “I’m looking for a good summer read. Have you read anything good lately?”
And, of course, we had to ask our founder and editor in chief…
Carla McDonald, founder of The Salonniere – If the person is attending with his or her significant other, I like to ask, “How did you two meet?” This always puts the person at ease since it’s a happy story they’ve told many times before. Also, it usually reveals enough common ground to keep the conversation rolling along for a while.
Introductory photo: Danny Kaye and Grace Kelly
Introductory quote: Casablanca, 1942