Making small talk isn’t easy, especially when you have to do it at a crowded networking event.
Will they get my sense of humour?
Do I come across as too dry?
Can they sense that I’m nervous?
The truth is, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete novice at networking events, the key is to keep things as natural as possible.
Yes, you need to come across as professional and present the best version of yourself, but if you don’t talk to someone like a normal human being, you won’t win them over.
Remember, the person you’re talking to is in the same situation.
So, keep the conversation authentic by showing an interest in them.
By doing this, you’ll start to form a relationship with someone — which is good news if you’re looking for a new job on the down low.
However, before you can start asking a person about themselves, you need to think about nailing the basics.
To give you an idea, here are some of the best networking event questions you can use whenever you want.
How did you hear about this event?
This has to be the oldest, yet most effective, networking event question in the book.
The beauty of it is that it can present you with a variety of follow-up questions.
Perhaps they first heard about it through a professional group on LinkedIn or maybe they’re there with another colleague promoting a business.
Either way, you can start delving into their industry and their company.
Or if they’re their as more of a casual attendee, keep things casual by discussing the speakers or the food.
I mean, you can’t go wrong talking about what culinary delights are on offer!
Have you been to any other good events recently?
Similar to the first example, this networking event question can give you a useful springboard into other areas of conversation or topics about work.
However, this can also be an excuse to keep things light and conversational.
Encourage them to chat about events outside of work.
Do they love going to Comic Con events?
Chat about their interests and you’ll inject a change-of-pace into your conversation.
Have you got any common eventing interests?
Professionals are more likely to remember you if you’ve bonded on something.
What do you like most about what you do?
The next networking event question you should think about asking is more of a follow-up to the less inspiring one: “What do you do for a living?”
What’s great about this question is that it encourages people to share what they’re passionate about and some of the cool projects they’re working on.
From your perspective, does their work sound interesting to you?
Do you fancy a slice of the action?
You’ll get a real idea of whether their job is fulfilling or not by asking this simple question.
It also shows that you’re taking a keener interest in the person standing opposite you, instead of making lifeless small talk.
Do you have any funny stories from your job?
This is a unique question to ask at a networking event, but if the tone is right, it can be a lot of fun.
Granted, if you’re chatting to a lawyer or funeral director, you may want to skip this one!
Chatting about things like this will allow you to lighten up the conversation and also allow you to showcase your personality a bit more.
Think of some witty anecdotes just in case they return the favour.
A laugh and a smile will definitely leave a lasting impression to potential new employers.
How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?
If you plan on using this networking event question, you need to know a few things about the person’s industry.
Slinging this number into a conversation when you have no idea about their field of work will result in you just nodding aimlessly while they talk at you.
Can you contribute any opinions and spark a debate?
Don’t be afraid to challenge their comments or ask supplementary questions.
This shows you have a keen interest in their industry, which is important if you want to work with them at some point.
What resource do you use to keep up with industry developments?
This next question leads on beautifully from the previous one, as it tells the professional you’re interested in learning more yourself.
Even if your conversation doesn’t come to fruition, at least you’ll gain some handy tips and resources to improve your knowledge on a subject or industry for future interviews.
After having a successful conversation using some of these networking event questions, you must follow-up the next day via email or LinkedIn. (Providing you’ve exchanged business cards!)
It’s kind of like dating, if you reach out too early, you’ll sound like a Desperate Dan.
Or if you leave it too long, your new connection will either forget about you or will no longer be interested.
Strike while the iron is hot and continue the conversation electronically.
If things are still progressing nicely, ask them if they’d like to grab a coffee.
Or if you don’t think there are any obvious ways to work with each other in the immediate future, simply tell them that you’re interested in hearing more about job opportunities when they arise.
This way, they can make a note of your name and put you at the top of their list should anything come about.
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