We keep talking about the importance of networking for business development and growth. But no matter how much we discuss the value of networking, the best way to implement these practices is to actually work on them. How about right now you check your “Meetup” app or a company calendar for the next networking event and plan to attend it. You already know what to wear and have the 100AM and other usefull apps in your phone for the electronic business cards (if not download here). Now the question is – what to ask people you meet?
That is a great question because there is nothing worse than silence in the room. There is nothing that creates more tension then not knowing how to strike a conversation and how to carry it. Not to worry, we have got you covered.
Questions to ask at a networking event.
For starters don’t hesitate to start with traditional:
May I join you?
Is this seat taken?
Is this your first time here?
Nice dress! (tie, cufflinks, bag, etc) – Don’t go overboard with the compliments, this is a professional setting.
Depending on the situation come up with your own casual line that will be appropriate to get someone engaged. Maybe if you are at lunch you can complement the food and ask your neighbors of their opinion. This quick dialog will become a great entry into more business conversation.
Once you find yourself talking you can continue by asking the following good networking questions:
What do you do?
Where do you work?
How long have you been working there (or in the field overall)?
How do you like it?
How did you get involved in it?
What kind of projects are you working on right now?
Don’t feel like a CIA agent on an interrogation. Remember, the sole purpose of networking is to ask these kinds of questions. People expect to be talking about these things. Make sure though, that you pay attention to the flow and don’t just ask, but also talk about yourself. And when there is a pause, you will know what to ask next. At this stage, you can navigate the conversation to where you need it to be. You are here to help them make more money and become more successful, and they are here for you. Another good networking questions are:
What separates you from the competition?
Where is your organization headed in the next few years?
What are the biggest challenges facing your organization
What other networking groups or professional development activities do you participate in?
What changes have you seen in your field in the past few years?
Where do you see this field going in the future?
What new opportunities are you looking for?
The most common mistake is to drop the conversation without any mutually set plan. These wrap-up networking questions will help:
Would you like to keep in touch?
What can I do to help you reach the goal?
When would it be convenient for you to have another meeting and discuss the X.
At this time you can pull up your 100AM app to schedule the next meeting and share it with your partner. Or to make a note of what you have discussed right on the business card.
Did you notice that all good netowrking questions are open-ended? Yes, that’s right. One can’t just answer “yes” or “no” and move on. They require talking and that’s what networking is all about.
Please keep in mind, however, that you can’t use this as a script. Forget scripts altogether when it comes to networking. The only thing you have to memorize is your elevator speech, everything else should come naturally. You are trying to create rapport and potentially long-lasting business relationship with these people to be as natural as possible.