Some people just seem to be right at home when they're at a networking function. They chat effortlessly with strangers and create new relationships with ease. Not me. Much as I'd like to see myself as suave and debonair, I'm really a bit of an introvert. I've had to learn these social graces.
Over the years, I discovered that asking questions is the key to success in these people-filled situations. That's right. A good question opens up even the quietest person. You learn so much about who they are, what they do and what's important to them. Plus all the pressure you feel to "perform" or sound "intelligent" totally dissipates since the other person is doing all the talking.
Recently Bob Burg, author of "Endless Referrals," sent me a list of questions you can use to establish great rapport with someone you've just met. He's graciously given me permission to publish them here:
10 "Feel-Good" Questions
1. How did you get your start in this business?
2. What do you enjoy most about what you do?
3. What separates your company from your competition?
4. What advice would you give someone just getting started in your business?
5. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you couldn't fail?
6. Over the years, what significant changes have you seen take place in your profession?
7. What do you see as the coming trends in your business?
8. Describe the strangest (or funniest) incident you've ever experienced in your business.
9. What ways have you found to be most effective for promoting your business?
10. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?
And, according to Bob Burg, the one key question that sets you apart from everyone else is, "How can I know if someone I'm talking to would be a good prospect for you?" (Ask this one ONLY after you've been talking for awhile and established some rapport.)
Great questions, if you ask me! While they keep the focus on business, they also give you an opportunity to learn so much. Next time you head off to a networking event, review these questions ahead of time so you won't forget them. Bob says you'll never have enough time to ask all ten questions - that two or maybe three of them should be enough to get a good conversation started.
Believe it or not, I used to write down the questions I wanted to ask before I went to the event. I was that nervous. And, I can assure you that being prepared takes the worry away. People respond to you differently. They feel so "comfortable" around you; they like you. It makes a huge difference in how you feel and the success of your networking.
Now go get 'em!
(For more info on Bob Burg, check out his website at: http://www.burg.com )