Virtual networking events are gaining in popularity – not just because they’re fun, inexpensive, and convenient, but also because they make meeting new professional contacts incredibly easy.
However, if you find yourself doing all of the talking during a chat, you might need to reevaluate your strategy. The ultimate goal of networking is to connect with people, build relationships, and share opportunities. If you’re struggling to get someone talking, this can be a challenge.
But how can you connect with people if you don’t know how to get them talking? Here are five questions that are GUARANTEED to get people talking, especially at virtual networking events:
1. What brings you here?
When you’re networking, it’s important to establish commonalities between you and the person you’re talking with at the time. The “What brings you here?” question is great for both in-person and virtual networking events because there’s always going to be an answer. You and this person are both at the event, so you share that experience. Talk about an easy way to start a conversation!
Here are few variations/follow up questions:
- What brings you to this event tonight?
- Have you ever been to one of these events before?
- How are you liking this event so far? Meet any interesting people?
This is a great way to get a glimpse of what this person is looking to accomplish during the event, which can easily segue into talking about their industry and/or professional goals. This is one of my favorite things to start with during a virtual networking event. I highly recommend it!
2. Where are you from?
This is always a great ice breaker. Everybody is from somewhere – ask about it! Where are they from? Have they always lived there, or did they relocate? What’s their favorite part about their location? There are so many questions that can branch off from that initial question. It’s a great fallback if you’re hurting for things to talk about.
3. What are your hobbies?
Ask them what they enjoy doing when they’re not at work. Ask them about what kinds of activities they enjoy doing on the weekends. Ask them about their favorite hobbies. Then, ask them why they enjoy those things. What got them into them? What are some of their favorite things about them? Why?
People love learning about people’s “after five” lives because, for many, it’s easier to relate. If you find yourself talking with someone whose professional area of expertise is a little too specific for you, or someone who has a hard time opening up about their profession, ask this question. Who knows, you could share a common hobby, which means more for you to talk about!
4. What are your professional goals or interests?
Most of the time, even at networking events, the “So, what do you do?” question isn’t so welcomed (especially for those out of work). It can make some people feel uncomfortable or insecure about themselves. Instead, rephrase the question. Ask, “What are your professional goals or interests?”
This phrasing eliminates any awkward moments because you’re not just assuming this person has a job. You’re allowing them to explain their professional position in a way that they can get excited about. You’re asking about their professional GOALS and INTERESTS, not about their job, which might not even exist.
After they answer your question, you can ask what drew them to the industry, why they decided to take that direction, and so on. This is a great way to get a more in-depth idea of what they are trying to accomplish and how you can help each other.
5. What inspired you to move in that direction?
After you learn a little bit about this person’s professional goals and interests, you can follow up with “What inspired you to move in that direction?” Was it a person? A memory? An event? Why?
Learning a little bit about their history with their profession or mission can give you an idea of what they are looking for now. Not only that, but they will be excited to tell their story to someone who seems genuinely interested in it. This will win you bonus points!
Quick Tip: Keep Your Questions Open-Ended
Notice that all of these questions are open ended. They aren’t ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. They encourage the other person to open up and talk about themselves in a way that makes them comfortable.
This approach will boost your likability factor because people will be able to feel comfortable talking with you, they know you’re not going to make it all about you, and they will appreciate that you took the time to listen to their story, interests, and goals. It will help you connect with people on a personal level, which also boosts your chances of them remembering you – always a plus, especially as a networker!