Do you ever get tired of going to networking events? I do. Even though I love meeting new people, after a while all the networking conversations sound the same.
- What do you do?
- How long have you been in business?
- Who do you want to meet?
- Blah, Blah, Blah.
What’s wrong with all these networking conversations?
They are too superficial. How can you possibly decide if you want to introduce your best customer to the person you are talking to if all you know is what you can see on their resume? If you want to improve your networking conversations it is going to take a little work. You have to move beyond the basic questions you ask by rote, simply to get to the facts on the resume. You have to ask questions designed to start a real conversation.
Start interesting networking conversations with better questions.
Why do you do what you do?
Instead of asking what someone does for a living, ask them why they do it. Simply switching the first word will open up an entirely new conversation. With this question, you can tap into their passion and their excitement. A quick note, if they tell you it was because they couldn’t do anything else, that is a clue to gracefully back away. If you want to have interesting conversations, it helps if you spend your time talking to enthusiastic and passionate people.
If you could talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Don’t ask how long they have been in business. You are sure to get the boring laundry list of everything they did leading up to this moment. People are likely to do that without prompting, I certainly don’t want to encourage that sort of boring interaction. Every time I ask this question I hear something new. Sometimes it leads to a funny story or a serious one. There is often sage advice which might inspire me to write something or a shared common experience which helps us build bonds that lead to a more meaningful business relationship.
What is the most interesting (challenging, exciting) project you worked on recently?
Getting someone to talk about a specific project is the easiest way to jump beyond the jargon and really get a feel for what they do, and who would be an ideal client for them. The other benefit (beyond just interesting conversations) is a chance to learn more about their customers and see if there is someone they are working with that you would like to meet.
People will want to talk to you again
Everyone enjoys a good conversation. If you ask great questions people will walk away feeling good about the interaction. Of course, you can’t just ask the questions, you need to be ready to share some interesting information about yourself as well.
The inspiration for this blog post came from a very unusual source. I was listening to Modern Love, a podcast about essays on relationships. The writer closed his comments with a story of taking the same approach in a business conversation that he took on dates. I thought it was a great idea. You can listen to the podcast here.