The biggest part of networking is mastering the art of diving deeper than expected into idle small talk. Knowing your way around a good conversation can be the difference between networking success and networking failure.
What are the keys to building a meaningful and enjoyable connection with your peers? Going to the edge of small talk, then jumping off it altogether. Let’s start with the standard, “How are you today?” The obvious and acceptable response is, of course, “fine, thank you.” What if you mixed up the question, making it open-ended?
Try asking, “what do you look forward to accomplishing here today?” at a conference, or maybe “tell me something great that happened to you today (or this week, this month, this year)?” You can even ask, “What’s going on in your life that you are excited about right now?”
Next, let’s address the age-old networking question of “What do you do?” Instead of a one sentence quick answer, dig for something a little deeper by asking, “If you could solve any problem, what would it be?” or “Tell me about your life’s passions.”
These examples are an imaginative way to get past jobs, careers and current realities and invite genuine responses and deeper conversations. Even asking, “what did you want to be growing up?” is a good way to get to know someone and share your own ambitions, too.
For a successful conversation with your peers, remember:
No matter who you are speaking to, peers in a networking event or the family at dinner, it’s important to expect that you will get answers that will be more detailed and longer than you are used to. Be ready for this and encourage it by making the deliberate choice to devote all of your attention to the speaker and listening fully to their answers.
Try this approach at your next event or gathering and you will see the results will be a more meaningful, deeper bond with your peers, friends, and family.