I’m always on the lookout out for fun and engaging networking events around the city. It’s a great way to meet new and interesting people who are shaking things up in their professions or business start-ups. It’s also a fun way to build new friendships and professional relationships on neutral ground. As an added bonus these events usually involve featured speakers and training so you get the benefit of professional development!
Recently at a networking event I noticed something incredibly frustrating while getting to know new people. It took me three, sometimes four attempts to find out what they did for a living.
Here is how these conversations went:
Me: “What do you do?”
Them: [insert general and vague response here]
Me: “Ok, so what does that mean?”
Them: [insert alternative general and vague response here]
Me: “Alright, so what does a typical day look like for you?” (I’m really trying to get an idea of what this person does and it is not coming through)
Them: [insert example of a typical problem they solve or service they offer]
Eureka! Finally, we were getting somewhere.
This was not only frustrating, but also incredibly confusing. Why were people not being clear about what they do for
a living? Why were they not shouting it from the rooftops, speaking with passion, painting me a picture of the brilliance they were bringing to the world?
Humility? Well, that’s what those I asked told me. Maybe it was a little more about confidence.
I get asked all the time, “Isn’t it better to ask about them, then talk about myself?”
The answer to that is yes and no.
Asking engaging, open-ended questions creates an honest and open conversation that flows. It allows the person you are talking with to express their passions and points of view on the topic at hand. Asking great questions is an art and a very useful skill. Indeed this will make you a stronger and more memorable networker and conversationalist.
However, you must remember, great conversations are like a tennis match. It’s takes two people hitting the ball back and fourth to make a fun game. If you’re not offering up some information about yourself, what you do, and what you are passionate about you risk appearing not only forgettable, but *gasp* boring!
When someone asks about you and what you do, by all means, tell them. Speak with confidence, with passion, and most importantly, with clarity and simplicity. Pay attention to your body language and the words you use. Be open, lively, and let them see the light in your eyes.
*A quick word of warning: balance is key! Speaking with passion and confidence = good. Speaking with arrogance or hysteria = not good. Read the room and your conversational partner's energy and match it.
A large part of becoming a skilled networker is about being curious and having authentic conversations. Asking great questions and speaking about what you do with passion and conviction are both important components. Master both and you’re in for some lively conversations and a rapidly expanding network.