Do you get to an event and freeze when you don’t know what to say? If so, you’re not alone, and I’m going to give you some networking conversation starters to make it easier.
Of course, there’s always the old stand-by topics such as the weather, traffic, or performance of the latest local sports team. However, I don’t suggest using those unless you’re reconnecting with people you already know, or the weather is a true conversational topic, like the year we had #Snowmageddon in the metro DC area.
“What do you do?” is another tried and true conversation starter, and it’s not a bad one. It establishes some context for the conversation and opens up some opportunities to explore potential referrals. However, it’s kind of bland.
How about one of these, depending on whether you’re a regular or a newbie at a particular event?
1. “What do you hope to get out of the event today?” or “Is there someone you were particularly hoping to meet? Perhaps I can introduce you.”
2. “Have you been coming to this event for a while? What’s your impression? Have you made good connections?”
Those allow conversations to go beyond what you do and into areas where you could potentially make introductions or figure out if it’s worth coming back. The first questions also set you apart as someone willing to help, and that will make you stand out in the minds of other attendees.
When a conversation has moved beyond what you do, try this one, “How would I recognize a good client for you?” We don’t get asked that often enough, and asking it plus listening carefully to the answer will make you memorable, in a good way.
If it seems appropriate, you could also ask, “What’s a challenge you’re facing in your business right now?” The intent isn’t to invite a gripe session but to genuinely uncover ways you could aid the other person.
Do those help? Which one do you plan to try at your next event?