While hiking earlier this year, I met two attorneys. I came home and sent them LinkedIn invitations. Both are great people to know. How did I meet them? They were wearing Duke hats and I asked if they had kids going to Duke. It was a simple question and 30 minutes later, we figured out I represent one of their firms and was on the Foundation Board of the other.
Networking can suck if you think it sucks. But, networking can also be interesting if you ask the right questions and become engaged. I love meeting new people and hearing their story, their path, their passions.
Here are five questions from the article below that provoke real thought instead of “yes” or “no” answers. If you want to network more, start with these:
- How did you hear about this event? – General intro question to get everyone comfortable
- What’s the coolest/funniest/scariest/most interesting thing that’s happened to you at work? – Transition question to start talking about work but in a fun way.
- What did you do before this? – To see if they have any interests other than their current occupation.
- When did you know that this was your calling? – Pretty deep question to be asked later in the conversation. This is could lead anywhere.
- What are you reading or listening to right now? – Great winding down question and fun way to end the conversation should you need to move on.
Our team uses a concept I have created that we call Objective Based Conversations or ‘OBC’ for short. I created this technique because it forces our team to ask questions and then gives them the proper answers based on the situation or topic of conversation without having a script. Having a script can cause you to fumble in the heat of conversation if it doesn’t go as you planned. Asking a great question is the first step. Try using one or more of the questions above at the next event you attend.
Let me know how it goes.
Rule #12 from my book The Fantastic Life: Get A Win
It doesn’t matter where, when, or how you network — as long as you get a win. A win could be simply connecting with someone new. Whether I meet someone at a social event or on the hiking trail, I consider it a win.
Want to Become a More Efficient Networker? Start By Asking These 5 Questions
Toss the small talk and opt for these thought-provoking networking questions instead.
When it comes to networking, no one likes small talk. Sure, you’re asking basic questions to find a mutual link so that you have common ground — wait, you’re from Boston? My sister lived there eight years ago! — but it’s seriously time to step it up.
There’s an art to asking thought-provoking questions without seeming too intense, cheesy, or inauthentic. It starts with having a genuine interest in this new person, making eye contact, and responding appropriately to their answers. Toss out the comments about the weather and try these meaningful questions instead.
1. How did you hear about this event?
This one is an easy one to get started with. Yes, it’s basic but the answer will give you a lot to work with. If they know the host, found out about it in a certain group, or go to it every month, use that newfound knowledge to dig deeper.
2. What’s the coolest/funniest/scariest/most interesting thing that’s happened to you at work?
Everyone has an interesting job and oftentimes we are met with people who work in the same industry but in a different sector. Sure, you’re both photographers but you specialize in weddings and they do pets. It’s a good opportunity to hear their side of the story, bring out their personality, and begin the exchange of really friendly banter that is work related but more humanizing.
3. What did you do before this?
This question helps you to know who they are. Have they always been in this industry? Have they jumped around? Did you both possibly work for the same company at different times? If you can want to make things even more interesting, encourage them to start with their very first job to give the conversation a more light-hearted appeal.
4. When did you know that this was your calling?
This one is a more thoughtful question that can be asked deeper into the conversation but will help your new acquaintance be honest with you. Be prepared to receive answers from all over the spectrum, including a detailed story of how they’ve been doing this the day they were born to a hesitant short-answer of how they still aren’t sure this is “the one”. Either way, use that moment as a place to relate and/or commiserate.
5. What are you reading or listening to right now?
I absolutely love this question. It’s updated with “listening” thanks to the audio book and podcast era, but it helps you understand their interests and selfishly allows you to add some good content to your list. Plus, it’s such a good way to connect with someone, especially if you’ve both read/listened to the same thing. Whether you can start discussing a podcast episode or a book theory, you’re already on your way to forging a true connection with this former stranger.
At the end of the day, network with your new acquaintance in mind. Let them do the talking and challenge yourself to drive the conversation towards and authentic and meaningful place.