Although it is a key part of building business, many people fight shy of networking events because they fear they won’t know what to say.
We often get hung up on what to say about our business and how to “sell” ourselves – yet the real skill in networking is about asking questions. Questions not only show you are genuinely interested in the people you are talking to but they also help you find out about them and their business – so you can work out how best you can help them.
The best questions usually start with:
Who When Where
Questions which relate to what the other person has just said
“What happened after that?”
“How was she after the meeting?”
“So what actually caused the confusion?”
Questions which probe further – i.e. build upon the words the other person has used. E.g. if you’ve been discussing someone’s website you could ask:
“Who designed it for you?
“What are the best parts of it?
“How long did it take?”
Questions which help you find common ground
“What brings you here today?
“How did you find out about this meeting?”
“What do you enjoy about running your own business?”
Questions which move the conversation along
“Can you give me an example?”
“How did that work out in the end?”
“So who finally got the job?”
Questions to unearth problems and needs.
Using the website example above, we might follow up on their answers with:
“What do you like about you current website?”
“What do you find difficult/frustrating about it?”
“What would you do differently if you were doing it again? “
“What is it’s SEO like?”
“How do I get to the National Theatre?”
“I saw you talking to Frances. How do you know her?
“Tell me about your business”
Questions to avoid
In initial conversation it is best to avoid questions that begin with “Why” as they can come across as aggressive, accusatory or overly personal. It is also best to avoid multiple questions and those which are too broad.