Networking is a valuable skill for professional development in all industries. As you grow your network, you’ll meet people who have established networks. To tap into these connections, get ready to develop a genuine rapport with the professionals you meet. Often times, this will come after a handful of interactions, so please don’t request for anything right off the bat. Instead, introduce yourself, have fun, ask questions, and identify ways you can be helpful.
As Keith Ferrazi says about networking in “Never Eat Alone”, “It’s a constant process of giving and receiving—of asking for and offering help…by giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone.”
Here are eight icebreaker questions to get you started at your next coffee chat or networking event:
1. Tell me about yourself
It gives the receiver the opportunity to steer the conversation to a place that they feel comfortable. You may end up talking about hobbies, home life, company culture, or side projects. If you meet someone more senior, try asking a follow- up question about how they got to where they are today. Make that time memorable and ask the harder questions later.
2. What projects are you working on?
Glean into their interests and priorities. This is an easy question for someone to dive deep into their passion projects or hobbies. Maybe it’s design or code, but it doesn’t always have to be work- related.
3. What are your goals (near-term and far out)?
See where the person is trying to go, or where they want to take their business. They may open up about challenges they’re facing. Listen closely and think about how you can be of help now or in the future. What sorts of people are they looking to meet? Have you experienced something similar? Do any solutions come to mind? Can you make a referral?
4. What are you passionate about?
Understanding what someone is passionate about benefits you and the other party as you grow your networks and start to make introductions. Being able to make introductions between two people with aligned interests makes for a stronger connection.
5. Are you reading anything right now?
Have any recommendations?
Let them list off their favorite books. Get excited about them. Comment on the ones you know about. Share recent books you’ve read. If many great books were named - swap information and trade reading lists. Not only is it useful, but it’s also a great excuse to connect digitally.
6. How are you?
Ask about their day. Mundane, but it works. It doesn’t matter if you end up talking about weather, family, or weekend plans. A neutral question can be a great way to start. Treat people as people and not as possible gains for favors.
7. What brings you here?
With so many people to talk to in one place - start with a general question. You can quickly tease out why they are attending this particular event and whether or not your interests align. Ask them what sorts of people they are looking to meet, and follow-up with a useful connection later.
8. When did you start going to these events? When did you join?
If it’s a recurring event, find out if they’re new to the group or have been a long-time member. Try and meet people that fall into both camps. Older members are well- connected to make introductions and can give you the inside scoop, whereas, new members will be equally eager to chat.
Don’t forget to have fun! Find and talk to people that excite you. Once you find those people, keep them in the loop and learn with each other! You never know who’s in their circle, or what they’ll be doing next.