How to Make First Five Minutes of Any Networking Conversation Count

networking conversationLet me tell you a simple truth about any networking conversation…

At a happy hour when you talk and talk, all about yourselfm he people around you become bored while you dominate the conversation. Instead of impressing the very people you came to the event to meet, you make yourself memorable for all the wrong reasons.

That’s why, in the first five minutes of any networking conversation, the smartest networkers do what no one expects: rather than talk about themselves, they only ask questions of others.

Small Talk

Yep, the best small talkers play the role of reporter and ignore their own back-stories. How? They use the six most powerful words in networking: who, what, when, where, how, and why.

So, here’s an example:

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.

Continuing the Networking Conversation

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 then 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?” Then you’re in the “opportunity realm” where a meaningful conversation can lead somewhere substantial.

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

Now what?

If you want to 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. After all, 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, however, interject with your own info.

“That’s a cool story, because 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. And all because you asked questions of others instead of making the conversation about you.

Powerful, right?


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Danny_RubinAbout the Author: Danny Rubin is a communications expert and author of the new book, Wait, How Do I Write This Email?, a collection of 100+ templates for networking, the job search and LinkedIn. For more of Danny’s insights and sample chapters from the book, visit his blog, The Template, which highlights the career advice in the latest headlines. Follow him on Twitter.



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