Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NEVER Start a Networking Conversation With, “What do you do?”

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.

WhatDoYouDoIf 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

conversationstartersHere 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!

BONUS Articles: Exit Strategies From Networking Bores!
“I’m going to freshen my drink,” and Other Little White Lies
22 Ways To Network Like A Pro


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!”

Subscribe to “Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James” and receive a fresh networking article or tip every 4th day by e-mail. Click on the “Email Subscription” link on the right under the “search” box. You can unsubscribe anytime!

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact: Larry James, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. –

NOTE: All articles and networking tips listed in this BLOG – written by Larry James – are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.


Add Larry James as a “friend” to your Facebook page:
Follow Larry’s “once daily” Relationship Tweet at:
Follow Larry’s “Relationship BLOG” at:
Follow Larry’s “Wedding BLOG” at:
Follow Larry’s “Authors & Speakers” BLOG at:



  1. […] Articles: Are You Asking the Right Questions to Get the Results You Desire? NEVER Start a Networking Conversation With, “What do you do?” No Pressure […]

    Pingback by Are You Asking the “Right” Questions? | Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James — Tuesday, June 30, 2015 @ 7:32 am | Reply

  2. […] someone approaches me at large networking events and asks, “What do you do?” I respond by saying, “I’m more interested in hearing about what you […]

    Pingback by “What do you do?” ~ Switch it Up! | Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James — Sunday, September 7, 2014 @ 8:34 am | Reply

  3. […] The action of a smile can mean a lot when networking. Make eye contact. Shake hands like you mean it. When you say “it’s nice to meet you,” be sure your face matches your words. Speak sincerely. People can very quickly spot someone who doesn’t know that networking is about building relationships, not trying to sell someone something that you just met. Make introductions to people you think may be helpful to someone you’ve just met. Always remember to tell people what you do that might benefit them. Prepare! Speak it in a way that will have them ask more questions. NEVER begin a networking conversation with, “What do you do?” […]

    Pingback by Do Actions Speak Louder Than Words? | Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James — Friday, June 27, 2014 @ 7:33 am | Reply

  4. […] Commitment to Networking ~ Here’s How 8 Steps To Build Relationships After A Networking Event NEVER Start a Networking Conversation With, “What do you do?” Networking Events — Which Event Or Organization Is the Right One for […]

    Pingback by “Myth-Information” about Networking! | Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James — Sunday, June 15, 2014 @ 8:31 am | Reply

  5. […] should you say? Asking, “What do you do?” is a mistake. That brings up a topic you most likely know nothing about. Do some research. […]

    Pingback by Networking QuickTakes… | Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James — Sunday, September 8, 2013 @ 8:33 am | Reply

  6. […] questions that are deeper than, “What do you do?” When possible, begin conversations with questions about someone personally, not necessarily […]

    Pingback by Reach Out – Connect – Engage | Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James — Wednesday, September 4, 2013 @ 7:35 am | Reply

  7. […] BONUS Article: NEVER Start a Networking Conversation With, “What do you do?” […]

    Pingback by Are You Asking the Right Questions to Get the Results You Desire? | Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James — Monday, April 1, 2013 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  8. Larry, great tips. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Stacy Deprey-Purper — Tuesday, November 20, 2012 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: