March 16, 2016
“Allow the other person to do a great deal of the talking…”
This is timeless advice that Dale Carnegie offered in his book How to Win Friends & Influence People. The book was published in 1936! It is available as a free download at DaleCarnegie.com
The best way to engage with others is to ask the right kind of questions.
Set a goal to keep awkward silence and fruitless small talk at bay by asking open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no response. This will make it easier for you to show that you are interested in the other person. You will begin to build and maintain the rapport necessary for building a sincere business relationship. These questions will garner insightful answers that will keep conversations moving once you get past “What do you do?” and “Where do you work?”
1. How did you get involved in… (this organization, this event, this field)?
People like to tell their stories. Give them an opportunity to do so while you listen attentively and they’ll admire and respect you for caring.
2. What advice would you give me if I wanted to be successful in your line of work?
This is a great follow up question to #1. It shows your humility and allows for mentoring. VARIATION: What advice would you give someone just starting in this business or profession?
3. What do you love/enjoy most about what you do?
This question keeps the conversation on a positive track. If you are wondering whether or not it’s a good idea to ask what a person likes the least about what he or she does, the answer is “no.”
4. What sets you apart from the competition?
When asked in a polite and sincere tone, this question gives other people permission to share some their unique abilities without feeling like they are bragging.
5. What one thing would you do if you knew that you could not fail?
This is a truly thought-provoking and inspiring question to ask. (You may want to ask yourself this question). It helps and encourages people to dream and when they revisit that dream there’s a possibility that you will come to mind. That can be a powerful connection.
6. What is the strangest or funniest incident you have experienced in your career or business?
People love to share embarrassing, frustrating or humorous experiences, but seldom get a chance to finish them because others often interrupt with their own stories. When you ask this question resist the temptation to interject your own horror tale.
7. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession or area of expertise through the years?
This can be a fun question for cross-generational networking because it allows a person to reminisce about the good old days.
8. What do you see as future trends in your profession or area of expertise?
This is a great follow-up question to #7. It further engages the other person and demonstrates that you value their opinions.
9. So, (person’s name), if someone were to describe you in one sentence what would he or she say?
This is another thought provoking question that is best used later in the conversation. Keep in mind that you are not interviewing someone; you are networking to build a relationship.
10. What do you enjoy doing on weekends or have free time on your hands?
This question will steer the conversation away from business and helps you to learn of interests outside of professional life. The information you learn will help you to come up with creative follow-up ideas.
Bonus Question: What would make someone the ideal employee for your company or organization?
The information you glean from this answer is priceless. It will allow you to gain insights into the professional assets that the other person views as priorities. It my also help you to position yourself as a potential job candidate for their company.