It doesn’t take extreme introversion to dislike networking events — even for an extrovert they can be hard work. Although endless chitchat can be easy for some people, most of us find it tedious after awhile, especially when there’s work attached to it. And even for those who readily get started, it’s not fun to try to keep a conversation going with someone who’s hard to connect with, as we stretch to fill awkward silences.
If you are still wondering what best to ask to get fellow attendees talking, then here are some questions to make a networking conversation start and flow with less effort.
“How did you get involved in the industry?”
People love to talk about themselves. Asking someone how they got involved in their respective industry will allow you to participate in the conversation without having to do much of the talking. You can use this time to read the tone of the conversation and tailor the remainder of the conversation accordingly.
“What types of projects are you working on?”
Asking about current projects may provide you with potential business, partnership or referral opportunities. Remember, although networking can be a great resource to seek out like-minded individuals within your field, it’s important not to make it the endgame – but better as a tool to widen your network.
“What advice can you give to someone who also wants to make it big – like you?”
This statement accomplishes two things – an answer which will surely ignite a conversation, and a little bit of flattery – which is always good. Asking for advice can be both a conversation starter, and a useful way to get helpful information. If the person you’re talking to has attended the event before, ask what they thought was helpful about it, or what other events they attend. Or you can ask them for unrelated advice on common interests like a restaurant or movie suggestion. These kinds of questions can get the conversation flowing naturally and illuminate common interests. As an additional plus, it feels good to have your opinion requested.
“What can I do to help you?”
The golden rule of networking can be summed up in three words: pay it forward. Don’t be the schmoozer that is only concerned with helping himself and not the others around him. Be the person that connects people within the community and promotes meaningful professional relationships. This is often times the person everyone wants to know.
“What do you like best about what you do?”
This is another good question to ask early on in the conversation because it’s a little “fresher” approach to the old, “So what do you do?” Everyone’s been asked that one before, and this question here gives you another option for getting that same information.
One caveat though: About 40% of the time one asks this question, people will turn it right around and you the same thing, so be ready – as you always should be.
“What is going on with your competitors and in the industry in general?”
This question is a good (and nosey) way to find out the potential in an industry you plan to enter. It’s also a great way to find out honestly about the current news or problems you must brace yourself for. Some people are tired of hearing the same ol’ standard questions others ask, but are itching for an opportunity to bring up some not-so-pleasant problems they are faced with. If there are, however, favourable developments within their business/industry, they would always want to find someone who would be happy to hear about their success.