When you want to build your network and make new connections, networking events are golden; full of people in your industry and ones related, there’s an entire room full of opportunity. However, many people get stuck asking and answering the same question, which usually focuses on “What do you do?”. Great question, but if you want conversation to keep flowing and not just ask the same questions that everyone else will be, try some of these conversation starters and be prepared to increase your connection address book overnight.
Everyone has a story to tell about why they’re in their particular industry. Perhaps they joined a society during college and found a passion for marketing, or joined their families business on a weekend in school and ended up finding a whole new talent they didn’t know they had. There will always be an interesting reason and a good story will usually accompany it. Since they’re at a networking event for that industry, they will probably be really eager to share their story with you.
Why are you at this event? This is a great question to learn why people are there and what they are looking to gain and learn. Perhaps the other person knows the head speaker personally and likes to support their events regularly, or they’re new to the city and are looking to increase their connections. This question invites honesty, and without being asked many people wouldn’t automatically share why. In asking this, you immediately open up other questions that can lead in to a very interesting conversation and potential connection.
This is a great area to both start a conversation and to get some great advice too. You could ask their advice and suggestions on other similar events they’ve attended, and why they enjoyed them so much. Once the conversation gets going, you could ask advice on the area you’re staying in if it’s unfamiliar to you – restaurants, museums, coffee shops with great WIFI – and gather their suggestions. People love to voice their opinion and share great recommendations about places they love. These sorts of networking conversations can highlight common interests – both for work and outside of it – that can be enjoyable for both parties.
Don’t come to a networking event without glancing over the news of the day and week. You can use it as a way into many conversation starters and it also ensures you’re not in the dark should anyone ask you about current events in the media. Take a look at the top stories in your industry too and prepare a few topic areas that could generate some interesting exchanges among potential connections.
People like to talk about themselves, and asking them about their typical schedule and day plan is a clever spin on ‘What do you do?’, as it opens up their job title and gives you insight into their day to day work. Not only does it give the other person fuel to talk away for a while, it enables you a wider window into their activities and to suss out whether there is a potential connection in this person. As they delve into the specifics of their day and job particulars, you can also gather together additional questions. They might mention regular trips to China; why do they go here? How do they like the country? The schedule question can really generate a lengthy – and interesting – discussion.