Do you have trouble thinking of what to say at a networking event? Maybe you don’t go to networking events because you don’t know what to say.
Well, networking doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Once you know how to get a conversation started with complete strangers, it’s pretty easy to take it from there.
Here are some questions to get your conversations at networking events off to a good start:
What brings you here? If you are attending a professional association meeting, you can start with this. It opens the door for the other person to talk about what attracted him or her to the event.
What do you hope to learn from this presentation? Again, if it is a professional association meeting or perhaps a training event, you can use this as an opener. This is not a personal question at all, so it is non-threatening.
What do you do? This is a very easy question to ask. Even when you are at a professional association meeting, and presumably everyone there is in a related field, people have different job titles, and all the work may not be the same.
Who do you work for? This can give you some interesting information about your networking contact. The person may work for a large corporation, for the government, or for a boutique firm. This type of information could be useful to you as you ponder your next career move. You may or may not have already learned about yourself what type of environment you work best in (small, medium, or large), and if you’re not sure, talking with this person could yield some good insights.
How did you get into the field? Sometimes people have some interesting stories to share as to what motivated them to enter a particular profession. And since people often like talking about themselves, this is a great way to start a conversation with someone that you do not know.
How long have you been working in this field? This is another non-threatening question that gives the other person a chance to talk. You will probably quickly learn if the person likes the field or not by how the person responds.
What do you find most challenging/rewarding about your job? As you may have noticed by now, these are all fairly open-ended questions that will take you beyond a simple yes or no answer. This question about what the other person finds challenging or rewarding can also yield some useful information for you. You may be considering a change, and this person may share information with you that will help you decide if this is the type of work for you.
Have you been to this event before? If this is an event that is regularly scheduled (monthly or annually), this is a good question to ask. If this is your first time at the event, you can get an idea from this person what you can expect.
Do you have any tips for how I can get the most out of my time here? If this is a large gathering with lots of presenters and vendors, this is a useful question to ask. Not only does it get a conversation going, but it also will give you a good idea of how to make your time at the event most productive if your networking contact is able to give you a lay of the land.
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