Professional networking events oftentimes can feel intimidating and initiating meaningful conversation with strangers seems difficult. The key is to use these networking opportunities to turn strangers into friends, brand ambassadors, and customers. To do this, it’s essential to plant the seeds of a future relationship in a matter of minutes.
According to Samantha Popp, TheLadders guest contributor, shares that being the first to ask an open-ended question encourages your new friend to open up and can jump start authentic conversation. Here are a few example questions to get you started:
1. I’m a little nervous to be here by myself!
Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one who feels intimidated to be at an event alone. When you’re the first to admit to nerves, others have the opportunity to bond with you over a shared feeling of unease.
2. How did you find out about this event?
This is a great question to get free tips on what organizations could be beneficial to your own networking efforts.
3. Where are you from?
Connect over living locally or welcome a newcomer to your area by suggesting the best restaurants or hiking trails in town. Recently relocated people also tend to be in need of new services and if you offer one of them, this is an opportunity to make a low pressure sales pitch.
4. How did you get the idea for your business?
This question might sound like it’s about business, but you can expect a personal answer.
5. What kinds of funny or strange things happen at your job/industry?
Laughter is a great icebreaker. Encourage your new friend to let down their guard by inviting some humor into the conversation.
6. What’s the most difficult part of your job or your industry?
Everyone likes to blow off steam and this question gives you a window of opportunity to provide a resolution.
7. I’m struggling with (___). Do you know anyone who can help?
By asking for assistance, your new friend feels comfortable opening up about services either they or someone they know can provide. This question is a great segue into a discussion about referring business to each other.
8. What’s the best part of your job or business?
Focusing on the positive will lighten the conversation and give your partner an opportunity to brag about one fantastic thing about where they work. Don’t forget to share yours too!
9. What kinds of people are you looking to meet tonight?
This is a great opportunity to see if your network is a fit for your new connection. This is also a great transition into making an introduction to someone else at the event.
10. Let me introduce you to…
When you start making introductions your value as a knowledgeable professional increases.
11. That’s interesting! Tell me more.
People love to talk about themselves. Demonstrating genuine interest is the quickest way to plant the seeds of a new relationship.