Networking Advice Listening Asking Questions First Five Minutes of Conversation

Networking Trick

From our brilliant friends at The Ladders and Danny Rubin comes some fantastic advice on what to do in networking during the first five minutes of any conversation – only ask questions.

How does it work?

The best small talkers play the role of reporter and ignore their own back-stories by using the six most powerful words in networking, including two of those “powerful” words in bold down below.

Networking Advice Listening Asking Questions First Five Minutes of Conversation

Smart networker: “Where do you work?”

Person: “I’m a sales rep for iHeartRadio.”

Smart networker: “Oh, cool. What’s it like to work there?”

Person: “It’s a pretty cool place. We often get tickets to free concerts and access to new music.”

Smart networker: “That’s pretty sweet. What shows have you seen recently?”

Person: “Well, let’s see. Back in December I saw … ”

You ask a question. And then another. And then another. You’ll get to your own life soon enough. Stay in the moment.

Watch what happens as the conversation ensues.

Smart networker: “Wow, you get to see all kinds of cool concerts. Do you have to work at the shows too?”

Person: “Yea, at the show in December, I had to work the merchandise table because the company who usually handles that service dropped the ball at the last minute, and now we’re looking for another partner.”

Smart networker: “Oh, interesting. You know I work for a staffing agency and we provide employees for short-term gigs like that.”

Person: “Oh, really? Email me tomorrow and I’ll put you in touch with our HR director.”

Do you see my point? If you remain laser focused on the other person, you will take the conversation WAY beyond “What’s your name?” and “Where do you work?” Now you’re in the “opportunity realm” where a meaningful conversation can lead somewhere substantial.

  1. Time’s up! We reached five minutes into a networking conversation.

Now what?

If you want talk further, you have two options:

  1. Wait for the person to say “OK, enough about me. Tell me about you.” That’s always best. You spent ample time in question mode, and now it’s your turn to dish out some answers.
  2. The person might NEVER say “Tell me about you.” We’ve all met that guy or girl. Clueless to the world. When the person gives you a break in the conversation, interject with your own info.

“That’s a cool story. It reminds me of a situation at my job … ”

Here’s the bottom line:

Whether you have the chance to tell your life’s story or not, you already got what you came for, so to speak. You (nicely) interrogated someone else, gained knowledge you didn’t have and perhaps found a way to network further.

All from the first five minutes. All because you asked questions.

This column first appeared on DannyhRubin.com.