Them: “What do you do?”
Me: “A little bit of everything.”
Them: “Sounds interesting. How long have you been doing that?”
Me: “A few years.”
They think: “I have no idea what that means!”
I think: “That person will never remember me and ‘interesting’ is just a another word for confusing.”
The same questions are asked over and over at almost every first meeting, every first date and every first networking event. In part, people ask these questions because they are relevant to figuring someone out. But, mostly, they ask because these questions are easy and elicit responses that don’t raise tensions — (almost) all of us do something.
But, if you were trying to network with me in a way we truly connect, wouldn’t you want to know if I were the type of person who goes sky diving or eats pizza with pineapples on it? Not only is that far more interesting than the norm, it can also prove to be common ground that builds a deeper connection and makes you memorable, which is the whole point of the exercise of networking. Incidentally, I do not want to sky dive and I truly do not like the idea of fruit on my pizza. Some of you will now remember that about me for a while. Others will need to ask more probing questions to get to know me.
Of course, my business passions should also be some of those probing questions to see if I can help your company, but whatever you ask, the most important part of stepping into a networking situation is to be an open book. In addition, you should learn to elaborate on a single thought and involve the other person in order to start a meaningful conversation. If I answer your questions with a canned response because I tell everyone the same thing, I am acting like an answering machine because my brain has checked out. You may applaud how well I have streamlined my answers, but I’d rather we turn the conversation around and get to know one another instead of just meeting.
Obviously, not everyone would feel comfortable asking deeper questions within moments of shaking hands, and not every situation calls for that sort of conversation. Here are some questions that can help spark a conversation at your next event:
- What do you enjoy most about what you do?
- What does a typical day at work for you look like?
- If you had to choose one thing, what do you think you’re best at?
- Who else here do you know or would like to meet?
- What’s the most important reason behind your success?
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
- What would you be doing right now if you weren’t here?
Tracy Shank, president of Start Marketing Me, is committed to business and marketing strategy consulting in Florida and beyond. After graduating from the University of Florida’s Master of Science in Entrepreneurship program, she has ingrained herself as a valuable member in the startup scene. Currently Tracy is working with Gainesville’s newest incubator, Starter Space, to help build the network that is necessary to provide the resources and advice necessary to propel companies to success.