Years ago, my friend, Eric Morgenstern, relayed an Einstein quotation to me that I’ve never forgotten, “Questions are the creative acts of intelligence.” In the context of networking, this is an enormously useful concept. Essentially, if you want to get someone talking – whether or not you know them – ask a good open-ended question.
Under “normal conditions,” a good open-ended question might be something like, “What brings you here?” or “What are your key responsibilities?” or “What was the last great book you read?” But, alas, these are not normal conditions, are they? In fact, in many cases, professionals are not leaving their home offices, so networking has taken on a new format.
Since many of our interactions are now done by video conference, people are challenged with health and social concerns, and the old questions don’t feel as relevant, it is important to consider new, revised questions that are more fitting for the moment. Think about these:
- “How has your business changed?”
- “Who is one person you’d like to meet?”
- “What are you doing to keep yourself occupied?”
- “What’s a positive surprise that has come out of the pandemic for you?”
- “How can I help?”
Be sure to come up with a few of your own – questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer, questions that are likely to generate conversation. And, of course, don’t ask a question that you, yourself, would be unwilling to answer – in fact, be prepared to share your own responses to the questions you ask.
Be safe. Happy Networking!