Developing Your Career

Three Tips to Make Sure Your Networking Doesn’t Lead to Dead Ends

By Greg Simpson on September 6, 2012

Do you have a favorite “go-to” question ready when attending networking events? When we recently posed this question on LinkedIn Answers, we received a wide range of responses.  Many offered sound suggestions based on the fundamental tenet of networking: Open with a question that gets the other person to talk about himself/herself. Unfortunately, some sounded like pick-up lines or tried too hard to be funny.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to working a room, there are three basic keys to initiating a conversation: be original, be sincere – and keep the focus on the other person. Here are a few tips for striking the perfect balance when striking up a conversation:

  • Be prepared with an opening question. Always start with an interesting (but never wacky) open-ended question so you can gain some insight. For example, consider asking how they got into their current line of work, what they like best about their job, or remark that they must have an interesting background and that you’d like to hear more about it.
  • Keep the conversation going. Have a meaningful follow-up question ready such as, “What is your industry’s biggest challenge right now?” or “What’s your biggest challenge right now?” Most people are more than willing to share such information.  And you may be able to offer some suggestions.
  • Put on your “listening ears.” Actively listen to responses rather than simply waiting to ask your next question. The best conversationalists understand the dynamics of discourse: questions and answers should flow organically from the give and take of information.

Successful networking conversation starters are characterized by sincerity, originality and a genuine interest in what others have to say. And always keep in mind that you’re making an initial connection and laying the groundwork for future relationship building, not closing the deal.

2 Responses to “Three Tips to Make Sure Your Networking Doesn’t Lead to Dead Ends”

  1. Valus E. White

    This works for online networking, too. The difference is bullet no. 3: when you listen in person, you can “listen” to body language, eye contact, breathing – which you cannot do electronically. On the other hand, “listening” electronically involves look at writing style, word usage, trying to read between the lines. I think this article is great for those of us trying to understand networking. Thanks!

    Mr. Valus E. White (Val)


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