Whether you are a seasoned networker or a rookie, you’ve likely had (or have) a networking-related question while on your journey to become a more effective networker. The following are the most common networking questions professionals have asked me over the years. I hope you find my answers helpful, practical and applicable while on the networking circuit.
#1 – Q: How do I break into a conversation already in progress?
A: First, be sure you are networking with a group that serves your needs. Check out 4 Simple Activities BEFORE Attending a New Networking Event. If the group is truly professional in nature, most attendees will invite you to join their conversation. If this isn’t happening, try one of these approaches:
1) Simply approach the small group or pair engaged in conversation and stand nearby, listening in. When someone acknowledges your presence, this is your cue to say something like, “Hi, this is my first time at this event. Do you mind if I join your conversation?”
2) Ask the event organizer to introduce you to someone or a few folks who would be of interest for you to meet and get to know. Be ready to let them know the type of people you would like to meet. See my answer to the last question below for more details.
3) If you are a seasoned networker, watch your body positioning and “never close the circle” which means, always keep an open spot for others to join the conversation. Standing at an angle or leaving an opening is a welcome sign for others to join your conversation.
#2 – Q: I don’t enjoy small talk. How do I keep the conversation going?
A: Remember, networking is not about you. It is about being a Connector. What better way to do this than to ask questions. Every answer given can spawn another question from you. Keeping the focus on them sets you apart from everyone else who is likely droning on about themselves.
I suggest asking positive, thought-provoking questions they will be excited to answer. For example, ask them how they got into their line of work, what they enjoy most about it or what exciting things they have coming up in their business or personal life. They will enjoy talking about their new product launch, expansion, family vacation, baby on the way or something else positive going on. See Tip#4 in Surefire Ways to Boost Productivity at a Networking Event. Also, take a peek at Bob Burg’s Feel Good Questions® for ideas.
#3 – Q: How do I gracefully exit a conversation to move on and meet new people?
A: Having the ability to end a conversation gracefully will serve you greatly so you can meet new people. Try one of these approaches:
1) Say something similar to, “I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. I promised myself I would meet at least 3 new people at this event. Perhaps we can catch up more later,” or, “Since we already know each other, how about we make our way around the room to meet some new folks?”
2) Facilitate an introduction. Is there someone in the room to whom you can introduce them? You could say something similar to, “Oh you need to meet Adam over here because…” Make the introduction and excuse yourself by saying, “I will let the two of you connect while I head over here to…”
#4 – Q: What should I say when someone asks me “So what do you do?”
A: This is a trick question! The person asked this question secretly hoping you have something interesting to share, so do not fall into the trap of droning on and on about what you do. Think of your answer as your 30- or 60-second commercial or “elevator pitch.” Your time is very limited and the person who asked has a short attention span. Therefore, you must be succinct and should focus on the benefits you provide your clients. For a full and comprehensive answer, check out 7 Factors in Creating and Delivering an Effective Elevator Pitch and Tip #4 in Surefire Ways to Boost Productivity at a Networking Event.
#5 – Q: What should I do to network most effectively?
A: Many have the illusion that networking is a way to get new clients. While this is the ultimate goal of networking, the Point A of networking does not necessarily lead to the Point Z of new clients. There are many steps in between. To be most effective, network to find “power partners” or strategic partners who share your same target market. You have greater potential for revenue stream from an introduction to one new power partner than you could from an introduction to one new client. Your power partners will likely not be at the event so be sure to ask people for introductions to those in their circle of influence in the specific industry of your power partner(s). Read more about this in Tip #6 in 6 Surefire Ways to Boost Productivity at a Networking Event.
I wonder… do you have a networking question that is not answered above? Please pose your question in a comment below and I will do my best to provide an answer or share links to where you can get additional information. Thank you and happy networking!
© 2014 CERTUS™ Professional Network / Behind The Moon, Inc. All rights reserved.
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