“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
Networking is vital for a successful business, because strong professional relationships can give you a competitive advantage. It’s important to connect with people and create long lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial, and this is best done through networking.
Despite this, networking events can be a bit daunting if you’re shy or an introvert. They can even be hard work if you’re an extrovert. It can be challenging for a lot of people to put themselves out there, mingle and sustain small talk in the hope that it will eventually lead to a meaningful business conversation. How many times have you gone to an event with the best of intentions only to find yourself tongue-tied and stumbling over your words?
Preparation is the key to networking, and it helps hugely to have some scripted questions and conversations ready to go. But, they have to be the right questions because some work much better than others.
So what’s the number one worst question you can ask at a networking event? It’s probably one you’ve asked people plenty of times before.
“What do you do?”
This is such a common question that it becomes incredibly mundane and frankly, just boring. A far better approach is to stand out from the crowd by NOT asking this question.
What questions should you ask?
A better approach is to start in the neutral space; something that has nothing to do with business at all. Talk about:
· The event venue - Have you been here before?
· The food and drinks – That looks delicious! Which table did you get it from?
· The guest speaker’s topic – I can’t wait to hear Barbara speak. Do you know much about LinkedIn?
· The organiser of the event – How do you know Bob? Are you here with a guest?
It’s important to build rapport before you launch into a conversation about your mutual businesses. You wouldn’t go on a first date and ask the other person to marry you straight away, so don’t ask someone to buy your product or service straight away. If you’re too forward, people will be turned off. If you’re open, friendly and ooze positive energy, people will be drawn to you and the conversation will flow naturally.
So next time you’re networking, don’t ask someone what they do. Try some neutral questions to start with and you’re in with a much better chance of success.
This is one of the many strategies we teach in our 1 Day Business Networking Skills Course, you can find out more here.