Let’s start by asking, how many times did you find yourself in an awkward situation that was dominated by small talk? A pointless conversation that could not add any value to its participants. Not to you, not to the others.
See, this is a usual phenomenon in networking events, corporate meetings, and every other get-together you did not necessarily or voluntarily sign up for.
So how do you make the most out of these social-business mixers? How do you avoid the pointless waste of time that is called small talk? Foremost, how do you lay down the groundwork for building meaningful, professional relationships with people that you just met but can add value to your career?
The solution is not in the answers. It’s in the questions.
Stop preparing the glossy pitch that you have prepared and overpractised for yourself and start learning about the other person. That’s right, it is not about you. It’s about them. The best networkers are great givers and listeners. Don’t take it from us, take it from years of research in psychology.
“Those who must command the spotlight, who never eat a meal alone, or are busy transacting miss out on learning about who others are—and that affects the ability to really connect”, a Vice article writes. The reason is simple. Conversation goes two ways, it is duplex and you need to establish a common ground of interest before harnessing a fruitful discussion. Therefore, what are some good networking questions that can help you do just that?
Good networking questions
1. Let the other person introduce themselves first, find out who they are: “So Tom, tell me about your work.”
2. Learn about their interests and hobbies, find out how you can actually connect with them: “What movies do you like? What food do you like?”. These are icebreaker questions. Seriously, have you ever seen Lord of the Rings fans meet each other? It’s bigger than the Friends Reunion episode.
3. Understand what their worries and aspirations are, and do follow-up questions: “What are you working on right now? It sounds exciting, what are the next steps? How are you planning to overcome this challenge?”. Also, make sure to compliment them on their efforts and provide a positive experience. Dale Carnagie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People ” is a must-read for such occasions. Check it out.
4. Finally, reciprocate: “I know someone who can help you with that, shall I connect you to them?”. Offering to help establishes trust in a business relationship.
If you apply the above principles, three things will happen. 1. You will learn more about the person you converse with, 2. As a result, you will be able to identify your common ground and make the conversation interesting, 3. You might just be able to help each other and gain something out of this connection, through a genuine conversation.
Do even better
If you’d like more tips like the ones we’ve just provided and if you want to learn about more than just some good questions to ask when networking, check out Covve’s Masterclass on Networking that is delivered to your mailbox weekly, for free.