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The power of networking is common knowledge nowadays. What’s not so common is knowing how to consistently and effectively do it. Networking is simple, but far from easy.
Whenever I’m speaking to a group about networking at least one person asks, “But what do you say (or talk about) when you first meet someone?” And someone else will inevitably ask, “What do you say (or do) when there’s a lull in the conversation?”
My response to both questions is the same. First decide if the person is really in the mood to talk to you. If you feel like someone doesn’t really want to talk to you, it’s no big deal. Move on to someone else.
If the person seems willing to engage in conversation then remember this. It’s one of the supreme laws of networking.
Duncan Nugget #241:
Make fewer statements; ask more questions.
The easiest way to keep the other person talking and loving you the entire time is to ask the right kind of open-ended questions.
Because open-ended questions require more than a yes or no response and show that you are interested in the other person. These types of questions help to build and maintain rapport.
Here are 10 powerful networking questions – listed in no particular order – to keep awkward silence and fruitless small talk at bay. The insightful answers to these questions keep conversations moving once you get past “Where are you from?” and “So, what brings you here today?”
1. How did you get involved in…?
People like to tell their story. Give them an opportunity to do so while you listen attentively and they’ll love you.
1a. What made you decide to major in…?
1b. What made you decide to attend (name of school)?
1c. What made you decide to go into the ___business?
1d. How did you get your start in the ___ business?
2. What advice would you give me if I wanted to be successful in your line of work (or major)?
This is a great follow up question to #1. It shows your humility and allows for mentoring.
What advice would you give someone just starting in this business/profession/major?
3. What do you love/enjoy most about what you do?
This question keeps happy feelings in the air.
And just in case you’re wondering whether or not it’s a good idea to ask what a person likes the least about what he or she does, the answer is no, unless you’re in the same line of work or major.
In which case, the answer will help you to find a common enemy IF you dislike the same things. If not, then disagreement ensues. My advice is to keep it positive whenever possible.
What do you love/enjoy most about your business/profession/major?