The last time I went to a networking event, I counted how many times people asked me this question:
The answer? 16 times in just one hour. I’ve become so used to responding to that question that I sound like a robot. It’s a question that allows the person I’m speaking with to learn very little about me except what my job title is and how long I’ve held onto it.
Over the last year, I’ve made it a point to listen closely to the questions others have asked me and put together a list of five that I’ve found to be thoughtful, engaging, and memorable.
Read on to learn the best conversation starting questions to ask every single person you meet at a networking event.
Stay curious about the other person. Ask about one thing they are excited about and listen to them spill the details on a project, hobby, or professional event that they are looking forward to. Knowing what they are working on can help you guide the conversation down a path where you can ask specific questions, offer guidance, and follow-up with them down the road about this compelling goal.
Before you ask for help, ask how you can help the other person. Let them tell you what kind of help they need and then begin mentally matching your resources and network to the problem that they have. If it’s something in your wheelhouse, offer suggestions and advice. If not, offer to follow-up with research that you take on or connect them with a person you know who is a better fit (and willing to mentor them) instead.
Add life back into the age-old question of “tell me what you do for a living?” with an ask about what the person feels is the best part of his or her job. This question will help you stand out at a networking event where most people just ask to hear the other person’s elevator pitch about the job before moving onto another question.
The answer that is shared will shine light on the best part of that industry and what that person enjoys the most about their career. This information can help you understand future jobs where they might find interest. It can also give you an inside look at the perks of a job that you might be unfamiliar with.
Depending on where you live, there may be an influx of networking events happening every night or they may be few and far between. Either way, asking about upcoming events, local organizations, or worthwhile conferences to attend, can help you build your networking to-do list with quality future engagements.
At the end of the conversation, ask how and when it is a good time to follow-up. Rather than grabbing a business card and heading out the door, be clear on whether the person would prefer you call, email, or connect with them on Linkedin. This way, you won’t end up on their spam folder or have your reach-out efforts end up on their unchecked voicemails.
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