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  • Diana Schneidman

Freelancing and consulting: 13 better icebreaker questions for networking

What do you say when you meet someone new at a networking event?

I bet my aluminum, imitation-silver business-card case that your first question is: What do you do?

I know that I usually say the very same thing.

However, this isn’t such a good thing to say for three reasons. First, it sounds like we are on a path to judgment, that we are collecting evidence to determine if we are impressed or not. Second, it feels like a canned introduction to elicit their canned elevator speech, which will be followed by a turnabout exchange in which we give our elevator speech. Third, it’s stale and boring.

Let’s explore alternatives that offer a little more originality and take our conversation down a less expected path.

Here are a baker’s dozen to try on for size. See how (or if) they feel comfortable to you. Depending on your tastes, some of these may be better for developing a conversation you have already started than as icebreakers.

  1. How did you happen to attend this event?

  2. Have you been to this organization/event before?

  3. How can I help you tonight?

  4. I’m interested in hearing about your career . . .

  5. What are you working on lately?

  6. What is keeping you busy these days?

  7. There’s so much to read in our industry. What are your favorite emailed newsletters or trade publications at this time?

  8. Why are you here? What motivated you to attend this event? What would you like to accomplish here tonight?

  9. What are some of the biggest challenges you have been facing in your business?

  10. What is your favorite part of your work?

  11. Is there someone here I can introduce you to?

  12. What did you think of the speaker? (Ask this only after the event.)

  13. What are you finding most valuable about this event?

There is also another route to follow, so-called “funny” icebreakers. These are unusual questions that don’t relate at all to your work. Here is a representative sample: If you were a candy bar, which candy bar would you be? Share why.

They are not my taste in terms of conversing with people I have never met before, but they are a different way to approach the challenge.

What about you? How do you start a networking conversation with someone you haven’t previously met?

Originally posted 2-23-15

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