Monday, April 2, 2018

I am at a Networking Event, so How Do I Start a Conversation?

So you made an executive decision and decided to start going to business networking events, since that is what everyone is recommending for you to get ahead in your career and in business.  So you check the latest Meetups and Eventbrite listings and start scheduling some dates to get out there and meet some successful professionals and start building up that old Rolodex of contacts.

OK, you got through step one, but now when you get to the event, what do you do next?

I always like to start slow at an event and observe my surroundings, maybe get a drink and look for the extroverts and even if I know anyone, just to break the ice.   The next step when you introduce yourself to the first person you met, what do you ask.   Honestly, everyone dreads that ol' question, "So What Do You Do?".   The recipient may also dread that question, since it may open the door to a long winded answer, you know, the one that can go on and on until you are begging and pleading for your phone to ring or the fire alarm to go off to break free.

I have been networking for quite a few years now and I do not like asking someone simply what they do.   It is like opening the door to, why don't you give me that paper resume in your hand or just talk about your life story for the next three hours.

Here are some questions I like to ask in no particular order.   Hopefully, they can help you engage in more meaningful conversation at your next business networking event.

- What is your biggest professional accomplishment and how did you achieve it?

- Who is your favorite business mentor, whether it is a colleague or a celebrity?

- What is your favorite business book, show or podcast?

- What is your biggest challenge in business?

- Who is your perfect client and who can I introduce you to, that will help your business?

- What is your top marketing and networking strategy?  What social media platform do you use the most to market your business?

- What is your favorite business networking group?  Hint Hint, Mass Professional Networking!

- What other talents do you have?  For example, do you play a musical instrument?

- What is your recommended follow-up strategy after you meet someone at an event and in what setting?  Phone call or over a coffee/ drink?

There are many other questions you can ask to engage in conversation, but chances are is if you pick four or five of the above questions, you are well on your way to a very engaging conversation and the start of a great business relationship.   You are probably wondering how you can remember all of the answers to your question.  What I recommend is to write some key words on the person's business card or take notes on a small pad, so it is easier to follow-up.

So now you know how to look for events and know how to break the ice at an event, so go ahead and start networking.  It is the one and only way to get ahead in this fast paced digital world.

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