Networking events can open the door to a variety of career opportunities, ranging from a new job or professional connection to simply a new idea.
Alongside the positives, there is a reason why people dislike the idea of networking. Attending events, seeking to build lasting relationships, can feel overwhelming. How do you make cold connections with people? Is is appropriate to bring a friend? How do you open meaningful conversations?
Preparation can make all the difference in making the most of these one-off events. Before you attend the event, think through your go-to questions to ask when meeting others. Need some ideas? Our Everwise community had some suggestions, based on the best questions they’ve been asked at a networking event.
Focus on the networking event itself
Asking about the event when starting conversations may seem obvious. But it also opens the conversation with an easy talking point — Rena Kazinou says — because everyone at the event is there for a reason. Kazinou suggests asking “What brings you here tonight?” as an easy opener that garners a meaningful answer.
Ezequiel Alejandro Martinez agrees. “The question is simple, personal without being invasive, and open-ended. It will get the conversation going and in just a few seconds you can learn a few interesting things about the person in front of you.”
The question can also quickly pinpoint common ground or shared interests, Jenn Uhen adds, “You can gain insight into what they are looking to get out of the evening. Their answer may help make your conversation valuable and productive.”
Tap into people’s passions and aspirations
You may think that networking involves a lot of talking while, in fact, it should involve a lot of listening.
Displaying a genuine interest in the other person can be as easy as asking “Why do you do this work” or, as Mei Huang recommends, asking, “What are you most excited about?” Darryl Cavitt suggests going a step further, “The best question I’ve been asked was when someone sincerely asked me “What can I do to help you get more clients?”
However you choose to approach it, show sincerity and curiosity in the other person. Gabriela Nitu says, “We get so focused on asking for business or giving our business cards away, that we forget to connect with people on a human level.”
Look to understand other perspectives
The small talk at networking events can feel tedious. To combat the chit chat, consider asking more direct questions aimed at learning the other person’s way of thinking.
Asking “Who and where do you want to be in five years? Ten years?” is simple to ask, Gabriel Neises, while prompting the other person to share their career strengths and objectives. JP Pellicciaro suggests you ask “What’s the toughest professional challenge you encountered in the past year, and how did you approach it?”
Asking these questions are mutually beneficial. You’ll immediately learn about the other person’s career and foster a constructive conversation.
Marco Antonio Sanchez changed his career trajectory thanks to a direct question: “The question was about “What is stopping me to accomplish my dreams? It really made me think about it, and I decided to start my Business Consulting company last year. That question was my ‘aha’ moment.”
In summary, when thinking of go-to questions to ask at a networking event:
- Focus on the event at hand
- Display a genuine interest in the other person
- Learn about other people’s ways of thinking