Conversational Catnip for Your Holiday Business Networking!

Don't be a deer caught in December's business-networking headlights--start a memorable conversation!
Don’t be a deer caught in December’s business-networking headlights–start a memorable conversation!

As winter edges closer, those of us who rely on referrals and word of mouth to boost our revenue streams must mentally prepare ourselves. The season of business-networking happy hours, luncheons, and other festive soirees (prior to Christmas) is now upon us. You know the routine: dress appropriately, engage warmly, sell softly, and drink responsibly.

I enjoy the holiday season. However, sometimes I think I’ll go mad from the boredom of expressing recycled thoughts at the end of another year. But it doesn’t have to be business as usual when you’re working the networking party circuit this December.

Follow Madonna’s “vogueing” advice from her 1990 I’m Breathless album and “strike a pose.” But do it verbally, with a brilliant one-liner from a film “inside” the business trenches. Pick up the gauntlet–make memorable impressions on both new and longtime business friends all month long:

Citizen Kane (1941)–No, It’s Not “Rosebud”: Charles Foster Kane (aka Orson Welles) and his associates utter lines much more memorable than the enigmatic “Rosebud” all throughout this film. (Trivia note: Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst wouldn’t permit any advertisements for the film to appear in his newspapers upon its release.)

There are so many quotes to choose from–here’s the IMDb page for Citizen Kane if you want to bookmark it. One such conversational icebreaker I suggest you sample is:

“I can remember everything. That’s my curse, young man. It’s the greatest curse that’s ever been inflicted on the human race: memory.” (Jedediah Leland)

Mildred Pierce (1945): This is the movie that finally allowed Mommie Dearest (aka Joan Crawford) to bring home the man of her dreams: Oscar (the one for Best Actress in 1946). For many women of a certain age after World War II, Mildred Pierce was the original blueprint for how to pull themselves up by their garters after a divorce.

This wild cinematic ride has an overprotective-mother/spoiled-daughter arc sure to keep you spellbound. But a character named Ida Corwin (the fabulous Eve Arden) has all the best comic-relief lines, such as:

“I like Mexico; it’s so…Mexican.”

“Personally, Veda’s convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.”

Network (1976)–I’m Not Mad as Hell; I’m…: Who can forget Peter Finch’s masterful rant as quasi-insane news anchor Howard Beale? When he told TV viewers everywhere he wasn’t going to take it anymore (after being fired by his bosses), the fictional station’s ratings blew sky high!

But the film Network offers so much more than good acting. The script is brilliant, which is why I deem it eminently quotable for business-networking gatherings. Try this one on for size:

“Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Full-fledged messiahs don’t come in bunches.” (Diana Christensen–Faye Dunaway in all her bitchy glory!)

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)–The Car of Tomorrow Was Doomed: This film is based on a true story and stars Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker, a man ahead of his time.

Mr. Tucker had the gall to design and build an innovative car (post-World War II) with features such as: “an air-cooled rear engine, disk brakes, independent 4-wheel suspension, an additional center headlight that pivoted left and right for better vision when turning, a padded dash, seat belts, and a pop-out safety windshield.”

But the firmly entrenched moguls of the automotive industry didn’t want Tucker to succeed. The film tells the story of how they crushed Tucker and his dream car. (A grand total of 51 cars were produced by the Tucker Corporation.)

This movie doesn’t get much quotable love or airtime these days, but I think it should. Here’s a taste of what you could learn from Preston Tucker:

“If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he’d be thrown in jail for sailing a kite without a license!”

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)–Always Be Closing Is So Old!: I bet you don’t think it’s possible for me to pull one quote from this film’s insanely abrasive screenplay that doesn’t contain some derivative of the F-bomb.

Whenever Glengarry Glen Ross pops up on cable TV, viewing it always makes me grateful for two things: 1) I don’t work in the real-estate industry, and 2) Alec Baldwin isn’t my father. Baldwin’s cage-rattling speech (as Blake) at the beginning of the film is profane poetry in motion.

Here’s a quote that’s sure to start a curious conversation at your next networking event:

“When I talk to the police, I get nervous.” (George Aranow, better known as the irascible Alan Arkin)

Big Night (1996): This film is about two immigrant brothers who hope to save their failing restaurant (ironically named Paradise) by serving a memorable meal to Louis Prima and his band in 1950s New Jersey. I encourage you to watch Big Night sometime soon if you can catch it on cable (or on demand).

Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci play the brothers, Primo and Secondo, with style and verve.

Primo is the perfectionist chef who won’t serve two starches together and refuses to contaminate a dish of pasta with meatballs. Secondo is the business partner/maître d’ who respects his brother’s epicurean genius but is at a loss regarding how to make their restaurant profitable.

Dazzle your new and longtime business friends alike this month with these savory morsels:

“Bite your teeth into the @ss of life and drag it to you!” (Pascal, owner of a rival restaurant)

“To eat good food is to be close to God.” (Primo)

Jerry Maguire (1996)–There’s No Need to Show Me the Money…: Tom Cruise’s metamorphosis from hard-driven sports agent to loveable human being is fun to watch. After all, he is the tinder that sparks Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Oscar-winning performance in Jerry Maguire.

Perhaps you think Gooding’s character, Rod Tidwell, has most of the film’s best lines. (Yes, you may be right!) But this doesn’t mean there aren’t other quotable bits, suitable for business-networking purposes. Here are two for the road:

“Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren’t completely embarrassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow’s embarrassment?” (Jerry Maguire)

“That’s more than a dress. That’s an Audrey Hepburn movie.” (Also said by Jerry Maguire…)

Office Space (1999)–Forget About Having a Case of the Mondays: It’s inconceivable that I’ve yet to dedicate a blog post to the masterpiece of worker-drone cubicle life, Office Space. This movie has it all: talented actors, an evil laser printer/fax machine, 37 pieces of flair, and quotable dialogue.

Many of the film’s best lines have been plastered across the Internet and social-media platforms over and over again. But I suggest you quote something less obvious, and more profound. Something like:

“The ratio of people to cake is too big.” (Milton Waddams, that red Swingline-stapling, fire-starting Initech reject)

There Will Be Blood (2007)–Don’t Let Anyone Else Drink Your Milkshake…: Have you ever seen Daniel Day-Lewis in action as the slick force of nature known as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood? If not, prepare yourself for a steady stream of scenery-chewing method acting.

I’m partial to certain earlier roles in Mr. Day-Lewis’s filmography (e.g., My Left Foot, The Age of Innocence, In the Name of the Father). But there’s no denying his business acumen as a ruthless oilman in early-1900s California. People’s heads will swivel after you lay this quote on them:

“You’re an orphan from a basket in the middle of the desert, and I took you for no other reason than I needed a sweet face to buy land.” (Daniel Plainview)

Finally, here are a few more slightly obscure quotes with which to startle and captivate your business friends:

“We’re all just one trade away from humility.” Wall Street (1987)

“…You don’t get ahead in life by calling your boss a pimp.” Working Girl (1988)

“I have to warn you…I have a terrible habit of doing exactly the opposite of what people want of me.” Kinky Boots (2005)

“The great state of Vermont will not apologize for its cheese.” Thank You for Smoking (2005)

“How much does your life weigh?” Up in the Air (2009)


When out networking, how do you start a conversation? Do you ever approach someone you’ve never met before? Have you ever lobbed an obscure movie quote at your unsuspecting target? If so, how did he or she react? Will you give any of my suggestions a try at your next networking event?

I’m considering writing a sequel to this blog post in 2015, so I welcome your thoughts and feedback. Enjoy the mad networking dash to Christmas and New Year’s Eve!

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing or educational copy. Please call Lori Shapiro at 856-810-9764 or email By All Writes LLC at  for a no-obligation project quote today!

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