Besides the basic questions of “Where do you work?” and “How long have you done that?” it’s good to have a repertoire of questions to start and continue conversations. Be curious and ready to listen. Play off their answers; you may only need one or two of these to get you started. Here are some of my favorite questions and why you might ask them, if they authentically fit your personality and approach”
- What are you excited about these days? This question makes them think and starts the conversation on a positive note. It’s easy to follow-up with their answer.
- What’s been the best part of your day so far? This keeps it positive as well, which helps you to view them positively, too.
- What do you like most about attending this (event/party/club)? This gives you more context on the event, and it’s easy to share if you agree–or you can add what you like about it.
- How did you first hear about this (event/organization/host)? This might inform you on connections you need to make in order to be “in the know.”
- What do you spend 80% of your day doing? This helps you understand their title in their company and then you can relate to common struggles.
- What do you like most about your job? Another positive-focused question, and it can trigger gratitude in the person. It can give you a chance to compliment what they do for the community/their customers.
- What is one of your greatest challenges in your line of work? This both helps you learn something new and also empathize with their struggles, which begins to build trust.
- What are you looking forward to (upcoming Holiday/season/new year/this event)? This is positive-focused and forward-looking, triggering hope/anticipation and maybe even joy.
- What do you enjoy doing for fun? This shifts the conversation away from work to personal life, and it can be an energizer to hear what energizes them.
- What’s your story (if you have a block of time)? This is my #1 favorite question for starting a coffee chat with a new person
- Where are you from originally? This is curiosity which looks for common experiences in that location to play off, or to ask how they got here from there.
- Tell me about your family. People usually light up when describing those they love–another non-work question.
- What do you do to grow yourself professionally? This may be a unique question I personally ask because it’s my profession AND it’s one of my passions as a learner.
- What other networking events/community activities do you hang out at, and what do you like about them? This helps you find out other cool places to visit to make new connections.
- How do you balance work and personal life? Again, this is part of what I teach in my profession, and I’m interested in people’s replenishment strategies that work for them.
- How’s business these days? People are often transparent with their answer, and I can either rejoice or empathize with them.
You can always compliment something about their appearance or something they are carrying and ask a follow-up question. For instance, what’s the story about your tattoo? Where did you get that necklace/hat?
Print these out to have in your car or padfolio to decide which ones you’ll ask at the next networking event or 1-to-1 that you attend.
If you want more ideas on rocking a networking event, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you my top tips!