When is the last time you went to a networking event and someone asked you about the weather? I find this to be a very common question. In fact, I was on a conference call earlier today and someone asked what the weather was like in Los Angeles. I find it fascinating that this is the default question or topic people turn to. I guess I understand it’s relatable to everyone, but at the same time, I scratch my head because we all have the internet and know about weather.com.
Effective Networking Begins With Building Rapport
Moreover, the answer almost rarely tells you about the other person. Networking is all about building rapport and rapport is basically built on trust, respectability, and likability. A great way to meet these three principles is by finding commonality or similar interests with the other person.
So, the next time you go to a networking event or are talking about to a stranger, I want you to ask some of these non-weather related questions:
10 Non-Weather Related Questions to Ask
1. What brings you to this event?
2. What’s new since the last time I saw/talked to you?
3. What did you do over the weekend?
4. What do you have planned for the upcoming week?
5. Have you heard of this speaker/organization before?
6. What are you most excited about at today’s event?
7. Who would you like to meet at this event?
8. What’s the last podcast, TV show, movie, or book you read?
9. What was your college major and are you doing anything with it?
10. What do you do for fun?
Why These Questions are Effective Networking Conversation Starters
If you go through the list, you’ll notice some commonalities across the questions:
- They are all open-ended questions. What this means is, they start with who, how, what, when, why, and often cannot be answered with just a yes or a no. While “How’s the weather?” is also an open-ended question, this leads me into the second commonality:
- All of these questions have the word “you” in it. They all aim at asking about the other person. Conversations are started by being curious and inquisitive.
Effective Networking Scripts in Action
Here’s how this might play out at an event:
Me: Hi! Nice to meet you, I’m Emily.
Ann: Hi, I’m Ann. How are you?
Me: Great. I’m curious what brings you to this event?
Ann: I had to come for work – our company is hosting the event.
Me: Oh wow. That’s awesome. Thanks for hosting! Which company?
Try not to Lead with Work
Generally, I try to avoid leading with questions about work. A lot of times when I go to networking events, I’m asked, “What do you do?” That’s fair. But I think we’re often more than just our titles at whatever company. It’s much more fun talking about interests and building rapport off of commonalities – and then once we’ve built a jive – we can talk about the work.
You’ll notice I’m weaving in personal anecdotes in the case there’s any room for Ann to get excited or curious about probing further into anything that is of common interests. Eventually, I may ask Ann what she does or what brought her here but I want to ask once I’ve developed a level of enthusiasm in our conversations. This can be easily achieved by asking about fun, enjoyable topics such as hobbies, interests, weekend activities, etc.
Brainstorm Topics to Talk About
If you want to elevate the art of conversation to the next level, you can also consider reading the news before an event. Find out what’s happening in the local news, business news, or celebrity news, so you have a list of topics to speak about in the case you find yourself stumped.
For example, you might say, “Did you hear about the 6 year-old boy who is raking in $11 million a year for testing toys on Youtube?” People might be like, “Whaaat? That’s crazy.” and you can tell them all of the details you read. Or they might be like, “Yeah! It’s time to start a Youtube channel” and get their energy shifting into one where they can show more of their personality.
Finally, remember that at the end of the day we’re all human. Just because it’s a business event or corporate event does not mean you can’t show your personality. Channel whoever you feel most comfortable speaking with and pretend as if that person you’re meeting is them. How would you converse with that person you’re thinking of?