Typically most people you meet at a networking event, will start their conversation with the question “so what do you do?” The problem with this question is it suggests that all you are not interested in them as a person, just whether their business will be helpful to you or not. Good questions should be asked because of sincere interest not because the answers will provide a mini needs assessment. Treat everyone with respect.
If you work for a corporate company and are tired of people coming up to you at networking events and trying to “sell” to you, ditch your name badge with the company details. Have your own name badge made, so that people know your name. Most will ask to know more about you.
“You find and connect with people when your eyes meet theirs. You make a connection with your eyes, smile and approach with confidence. And then you kick things off with a question. A starter or introductory question needs to be open ended so that the other person is given a wide berth in which to answer. To put their own spin on things. Everyone likes to give their ideas and opinions. The question also needs to be genuine.” ~ Tim Tyrell-Smith
I use questions to determine my level of interest in them, in their business and whether they are someone I may want to get to know better. The key to effective business networking is to find people where there is a mutual interest to meet again. It’s important to be genuinely interested in and curious about their answers. I look for something I might have in common with them, and ask a related question.
Engage them with your questions. Learn to ask a more creative, open-ended questions to get a conversation going and enrich your experience with them. Stay away from questions that might bring a negative response, like, “So, how is your business?” or “Has your business changed over the past year?” I usually introduce myself, offer a handshake (holding my cold drink in my left hand) and say, “Hi. My name is Larry James, what’s yours?” Then I ask another question.
“The key to networking success is being a good conversationalist and showing genuine interest in another’s business and knowing when to talk about your own.” ~ Jack Fraenkel
Here are a few conversation starters that may work for you:
• Hi. My name is Larry James. What’s yours? (Use your name 😉 )
• What inspired them to come to the event?
• If I were to find you a lead, what sort of person would I be looking for? OR…
• Who would be a good referral for you? OR…
• How may I help you?
• Have you been to this event before? OR…
• What inspired you to come to this event?
• Is this your first time to this event?
• Are you looking to connect with anyone special today? (If you know someone, make an introduction)
• What part of the city do you live? OR…
• Where are you based?
• How did you happen to get into your line of work? OR…
• Why did you choose your current profession?
• What do you most enjoy about what you do?
• What brought you here today?
• Where do you get your ideas for networking? OR…
• Have you discovered any good networking blogs lately? OR…
• Can you recommend any resources on business networking?
• How have you benefited from being here this evening?
• What’s the most challenging aspect about the position you’re currently in?
• What would you like to be most remembered for at your current company and why?
• Compliments are always good as long as they are sincere. “I really like your necklace.” or “I love your business logo. Tell me about it.”
• If you attended the event with someone say, “Have you met Sally Jones? She is one of the top Realtors® in the Greater Phoenix area.”
• May as well chat since we’re in line for the registration. (As a question)
• Do you know of other networking groups that might be good for me to know about?
• If they are talking with someone you know ask, “How do you know James?”
Always be prepared to answer the question “What do you do?” Your response should be just a few seconds long, should not include any technical jargon, and should either invite the person you are speaking with to ask you more questions or end with a question to them.
Never discount someone as unimportant. You need to be someone who is identified as respectful and polite at all times, and to everyone. However, sometimes you will meet people who you do not want to meet again. For example, they show no interest in you whatsoever or maybe show too much interest in trying to sell you something rather than get to know you. Know when to end a conversation. Politely excuse yourself from the conversation before it begins to die down. Read the bonus articles below.
Larry’s NOTE: A special “Thank you” to Heather Townsend, The Efficiency Coach for inspiring this article!
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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