It is not easy for many people to network. They feel uncomfortable approaching strangers, which makes total sense because that is what our parents taught us, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Most of the reason they are uncomfortable is that they do not know what to say and how to open the conversation in a way that leads to a productive and enjoyable interaction.
Here are a few tips that I find helpful when I am at a networking event and I want to find out more about the person, not just their business.
First and most importantly, never ask a yes or no question. All of your opening questions should lead to a conversation. Yes or no questions shut down the conversation right away. An example of this would be if you met someone at the Chamber of Commerce Business Networking Event, and you asked the question; “Are you a member of the Chamber?” If you ask this question you will get yes or no and you will need to be prepared with a next question such as “What do you like most about the being a member?” If they say “No” your options are usually more yes no questions.
Second, ask questions. He who ask the questions, controls the conversation. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked people questions and just listened to them talk. At the end of the conversation they frequently let me know how much the enjoyed our conversation.
Third, when you ask a question, be prepared to listen to the answers. This will lead you down the path of better conversations. Listening is the most important thing you can do to build on a conversation that will lead to a future relationship.
Fourth, ask more questions. If you listen carefully to the conversation, it will lead you to the next question to ask. All too often, when I attend large networking events, it is as if I am watching two televisions speaking to one another. No one is actually listening with intention. Often when someone appears to be listening, they are only doing so to respond quickly with their own answer.
When meeting people for the first time you want to get them to open up both personally and professionally so that you can find areas of common interest. Asking open-ended questions and truly listening to their answers will help you more quickly establish a productive and enjoyable relationship.
Keep It Simple
There are few women better at building a global network than Hazel Walker . Renowned for her straight talk and no-holds-barred approach, Hazel is a globally sought after speaker.