The easiest way to be seen as a bore is to talk about yourself. Your goal at a networking event is to make yourself memorable by not talking about yourself. In honor of International Networking Week, Dr. Misner shares 5 good questions to ask at a networking event.
- What do you like best about what you do?
- What got you started in this profession?
- Where else do you usually network?
- What are some of your biggest challenges?
- How can I help you? (Don’t ask this unless you mean it and plan to follow through.)
Do you have favorite questions to ask at networking events? Share them in the comments.
Brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube.
Complete Transcript of Episode 544 –
Hello everybody and welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast, brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube, which features Dr. Ivan Miser and many other networking experts. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan, how are you today?
I am doing fantastic and I would like to wish you and everyone listening a Happy International Networking Week. It is the first week of February every year, International Networking Week. So this is International Networking Week. If you get a chance, go to internationalnetworkingweek.com or to my blog IvanMisner.com and just check out a very short video. It’s only about four minutes long about International Networking Week. I talk about diversity. I have been doing this now for 10 years, I think 11 years, International Networking Week.
I have a lot of content to do today so let me jump into that. It’s an interesting topic, as you told me offline, five great questions to ask at a networking event. So here we go. What is the easiest way to be seen as a bore? Talk about yourself. That is probably the easiest way. So why would anyone thing that successful networking means cornering as many people as possible and telling them all about your business? That is a bad idea.
The best way to entertain a new contact and potential future referral partner is to get them to talk about themselves. So your goal at a networking event is to make yourself memorable without talking about yourself. Now, that sounds paradoxical, but it really works. If you know how to do it, you will stand out in people’s minds when they look back on the event.
The secret really is to ask people about themselves and their business. A lot of people you run into at networking event are so busy talking about themselves, their products and all the great things that they can do for you that they never take a breath and ask about you. Instead of competing with these folks, imagine the result of asking questions that encourage them to freely share that information. You can really create a networking environment in which they are talking and you are listening. A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them both proportionately. People are feeling heard.
This all begins with your opening conversation, so if you lead off by asking the right questions, and you demonstrate a genuine interest, cultivate an attitude of trust and rapport from the start. So here are five good questions to ask at a networking event. Not in any particular order. Go with the flow and by the way, don’t take a list of questions in and start reading them to them. Just go with the flow and ask them as it seems to fit.
The first one is what do you like best about what you do? You have been out networking before. You already know what you do. It is one of the first questions that people ask you and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you say what do you do, but it doesn’t really leave you much room to maneuver when they tell you what they do. It is a great way to get an open-ended kind of conversation. That is really what you are looking for, open-ended communication.
Here’s another one. Number two, you mentioned that you are in whatever industry, whatever business. What got you started in that direction? That is the second question. This question is much like the previous one. It gives the other person a chance to talk about their personal desires, their personal goals, what they do, how they like it, and it stands out. It is not what people are usually asking. It provides some insight into how dedicated they are to their profession, how proficient they may be at it. When you learn what their previous experience has been, you begin to see ways that you might be able to have either overlapping areas of interest or ways that you might be able to work with one another. That is number two.
Number three, where else do you usually network? What other kinds of networking groups do you go to? IF you are in BNI, that’s a great one because you can also say, “Oh, I am in BNI.” This is what is really awesome- when you are talking to somebody who is already a member of BNI somewhere. That is a great place to start. Not only does this question help break the ice during a sometimes awkward period after you have introduced yourself, but it is a chance to talk about something you both know a little bit about, certainly you as a BNI member know about it. Another reason that I like this question is it gives you the opportunity to make an instant connection. It’s a great step toward creating a solid connection with somebody who is also out there networking in other places.
Number four, what are some of your biggest challenges? Now, I talked about this one on the podcast before. Never lead with this question. At some point in the conversation, it is a great question to ask because my experience is they actually tell you some of the challenges they have in their business. So what are some of the biggest challenges you have in your business? Great question that can be used toward the end of the conversation. Of the four that I have covered so far, this usually elicits the longest response if you have developed rapport with them. You may wonder why but it is because asking about their reasons, their passion, their motivation for being in their specific business lays the groundwork, but asking them about some the challenges they have in the business really tells about some of the sorts of things that allow us to possibly refer them.
I am not talking about selling to them. I know we talked about this in a previous podcast. “I know someone who can help you with that challenge you are having.” I have made that statement so many times in talking to people and I have been able to refer them to a referral partner because of a challenge that they have shared with me. So great question that I really recommend.
Number five, and if you have any, Priscilla, I would love to hear any of yours. This next one I would ask only if you mean it. “I really like what you are doing. How can I help you?”
That is what I was thinking. Alright.
If you have asked the new acquaintance some or all of the previous questions, the conversation has probably gone well and you have decided this person is someone you would like to have in your network. If it is someone you would like to have possibly in your network, that is a great question and their answer may tell you something that will enable you to help them and being helpful is the best way to start building a solid relationship. Certainly, to anyone who lives the principle of givers gain, it is a question that comes naturally because the people that you are networking with, if they are adopting that same mindset of giving, they will do the same for you. Remember, use that one only if you really feel like you would like to get to know this person a little bit better. So opening up with that is a good idea.
I know some people don’t like that, but it works for me. When I want to get to know them better, I ask how I can help them after I have asked a lot of other things. It’s a great technique.
So just to wrap up and then if you have anything you would like to add, Priscilla, I would love to hear it. Remember, everyone has a story. Make it your job to find out what that story is. These questions will help you find out what that story is. Anything you would add to that, Priscilla?
I was going to offer number five, which was how can I help you? Because that is so powerful but truly, you have to be able to follow through. If you don’t, it goes nowhere and it is ridiculous to ask that question.
Right. You know, if you are not willing to help them, don’t ask the question. If you don’t think there is a possible connection there, don’t ask that question. If they ask for something that you are really not quite able to do- for example, sometimes they will say, “I could use referrals.”
I have no problem saying I refer people that I really have developed a relationship with and I would love to, you know, meet again. Again, I have asked somebody who I would like to build a relationship with and if they ask for a referral, which is probably going too far if I don’t know them well enough, then I have no problem saying I refer people that I know I can trust and I now talk about the VCP process- Visability-Credibility-Profitability. You and I are at visibility right now, so I would love to move through those stages and get to credibility where I feel comfortable referring you. Let’s connect again. Let’s meet at the Chamber function again next month or come join me at a BNI meeting and let’s get to know each other a little bit better.
So there are ways of saying no without saying NO. That is the way I would use if somebody is asking for something that you can’t do. I hope those five questions help everybody. I would love to hear if you have some questions – there are plenty that you can ask- if you have some that you would Ike to share with us, put it here in the comments section of BNI Podcast. I promise you I will see them. I read all of the comments that come in for the podcast before they get posted. I see them. I look forward to hearing your comments.
Perfect, Ivan. Thank you so much. Well, I think that is it for this week. Thank you so much, Dr. Misner for bringing this little topic up. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube. Thank you for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we look forward to having you join us again next week for another exciting episode of the Official BNI Podcast.