“I know networking is really important, but how do I get the conversation started?” said an attendee at one of my presentations. In the words of Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.”
Translation: Ask the new people you meet about themselves. When in a group or at a party, listen carefully to the conversation. See where you might be able to jump in. It may be something as simple as an exclamation, “You’re kidding me!” that gets the ball rolling.
I recommend preparing in advance of the event by setting networking goals and having at least three open-ended questions you can ask any person at the networking event.
Here are open-ended questions that encourage conversation:
1) What brings you to today’s meeting [event, conference, barbeque…]?
2) What one or two things would you like to take away from this event [conference, meeting, party…]?
3) What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you all week?
NEVER ask: “Do you know anyone who’s hiring?” Or “Do you know anyone interested in buying [insert your product here]?”
If you’re at a business event, get a business card from the new contact and jot down some notes from the conversation. It can be as simple as, “Big Elvis fan.” That way, the next time you see the person or call the person, you can start the conversation with, “Hey, did you see the new 2-CD set that came out on Elvis? Has all the songs, plus a 32-page book. Cool.” Then, once they’ve exhausted their excitement of the big event, you can jump into the “real” conversation, “So, what’s going on at the office? Did they create that position we talked about at Bernadine’s Memorial Day party?”
Your goal is to create real and helpful connections, NOT close the deal on a job offer, nail the sale of your product or service or collect the most business cards in the room.
©2005 – 2012 | Wendy J. Terwelp | All rights reserved.
Wendy Terwelp advises and coaches clients in the art of networking, turning networking pain to career gain. What to fine-tune your networking efforts and have more confidence in any networking situation? Let’s talk!
6 thoughts on “Networking 101 – Starting Conversations”
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