If you’re wondering what the best questions are to ask at networking events, there isn’t a straight answer. The strongest questions depend on what you’re trying to get out of the event; for example, are you hunting for new business? Looking for a new job? Or, are you just trying to meet new people to build your professional network? Going into the event, you should focus on your goals, while being open-minded about what might come out of new interactions. We put together some suggestions for networking events that will help you build rapport, expand your network, and learn more about the companies, employees, and contacts at the event.
Following Up in Conversation
Don’t worry about spending too much time preparing questions ahead of time! This can cause you to miss out on valuable information that will come up in conversation organically. Focus on genuinely listening to the other person and asking thoughtful follow-up questions, which demonstrate that you’re listening to what they’re saying. You can do this by repeating back some of what they have said and tacking on questions in response. For example: “Given that you are working on building out your sales team, how does that affect your go-to market strategy?; Congrats on the new XYZ hire, what does that person do in relation to other teams within the company?” Asking follow-up questions not only shows your interest, but also reveals more about a company and its employees, which is valuable information for job seekers and networkers alike.
Gaining value out of networking events is key – that’s what you’re there for, right? Asking questions like, “What is the value of your company’s product, how does it affect the greater market, and why is the company important to you” can give you insight into the company, their culture, and their mission. Speaking to individual employees and learning about their passions can shed light on their motivations and may even resonate with you – leading you to consider looking at open roles within that company or, in the same industry.
Whether you’re looking for a new job or building business connections, understanding and pinpointing company culture can be elusive, but speaking to employees firsthand is the best way to learn about how the teams interact and the overall mindset of the office. Ask questions about office dynamics and company culture when you are connecting with someone. If the environment they describe runs parallel to the atmosphere you work best in, the company could be a great culture fit for you. Although this can be challenging, vetting out company culture can make or break your interest – so make sure your values align before jumping on a new opportunity.
Building the Bond
Finally, ask questions that revisit your conversation and commonalities for simple and personal follow-up after the event. Ask questions that focus on the future, so you can start building on that professional relationship immediately. Asking someone about his or her next project can be the perfect way to continue building that bond. Your email or LinkedIn message can be a simple, nice meeting you/how is the project coming along, looking forward to staying in touch! By following up, you’ll set yourself apart from others—completing your due-diligence will take you far!