Have you ever arrived at a networking event and just been completely lost for good conversation starters? Don’t worry; you’re not the only one. It’s just too easy to fall on those old standards like “the weather’s been beautiful in the last few weeks” and “how have things been?” Avoiding those statements that are plain and boring will help you to stand in the crowd and to potential partners and employers as well. Here are four great questions that we suggest you come prepared to use at the 2018 Toronto World Leadership Forum:
Have you read any good books recently?
This is a great question to ask because it suggests that you’re likely the kind of individual, who values learning and personal development. It leaves a good impression on the person you’re conversing with and allows you to collect a list of new books to add to your wish list. The recommendations that you encounter also help you to decipher what kind of person they are. The subject matter will often reflect what they value in their relationships. Do they value customer service skills? What about data science skills? No matter what the subject matter, you’re able to see a small peek into the skills they see as important.
But don’t come unprepared! If you’re going to ask for book recommendations, make sure that you have one to offer in return so that you don’t seem like you’re just asking questions for the sake of making conversation.
What’s your number one best practice for personal development/growth?
Here’s another question that shows your initiative as a learner. It allows you to look at some of the elements of routine, that others are practicing to become better individuals. You’ll find that everyone you talk to will likely have a different answer. This helps you to see the broad scope of options you have, as a lifelong learner, to enrich your life and career. For some people, it’s all about healthy options like going to the gym, meditation, or a strict morning routine. For others, you’ll find it’s about taking time to relax or treating yourself to one of your favorite meals from time to time.
Before you attend the event, think about some of the best practices you work on in your life. You might find someone from your area, who also does these activities and it might help you to grow your network even more.
Who inspires you?
This question is never a boring one to ask because it can bring out some very personal stories that help you to get to know someone on a deeper level. You might learn about a famous influencer or author, from one attendee but another might tell you a story about their father or even their children. One of the biggest parts of networking is knowing that everyone has a story to tell and those stories are what make us want to get to know people more and develop relationships with them.
One issue with this question is that it can make people uncomfortable to talk about their stories, especially if they come from a place of hurt or anxiety. Don’t be pushy with this question. It might not be right for an introductory conversation but could be perfect for someone at your table throughout the day. Get to know a little bit more of the surface level information about a person before you jump into a question that makes them tell you about their personal experiences.
If you could change one thing about your career/job, what would it be?
This is a question that forces people to think about their own lives and be introspective about their wants and desires. A lot of the time people will ask what others love most about their positions. Although this is a great question, it can get boring, hearing the same answers over and over again. “I love working with people” or “I love seeing how my team grows” start to grate on your nerves after a while. Instead, surprise people by asking what they would change. You’ll be surprised by the answers. And if you’re an employer, you might learn a thing or two about what some issues even your employees might be dealing with, and not telling you about.
No job is perfect. And although some people might want you to think that everything is in order and happy all the time, we all have things we’d like to adjust in our lives. Don’t be ashamed to talk about something negative just because it seems like a bad subject. It actually allows you to learn more about an individual by showing you a side that they wouldn’t necessarily give away without some coaxing.