Starting the Conversation

Today I saw a question posed by someone that got me thinking. She asked:

"At a recent conference I was told a good way to start a conversation is: 'I meet lots of people. What should I tell them about you?'"

I thought about this a bit and remembered what Patty Farmer, the Networking CEO, said at a Public Speakers Association meeting recently. She said instead of asking "what do you do," ask "who do you serve?" Patty explained that asking "what do you do" is so overused that people tend to tune it out. There is much more to networking than learning about a person's profession.

When I was new to networking that was the question I always asked to start a conversation. Over time, I realized there is more to networking than just getting some one's business card. I learned that networking was about building connections. These connections didn't need to end with money exchanging hands; instead it is about helping others.

Now when I walk away from a networking exchange, I come back to the office with more joint venture or speaking opportunities than I do clients! I know that the business associates who trust me and want to work with me will also recommend me. That's where I get my clients - from their recommendations.

So, what should you say to start the conversation? You can try Patty's approach. My approach is to ask "what brings you here?" It's a nice ice breaker and works well for me. It also delays the pitch-fest from both parties and, often times, I learn something about that person I normally wouldn't. And many times, people thank me for not asking them what do they do!

Alicia White, CEO of Back of the Room Productions™, helps speakers, coaches, authors, business experts and thought leaders monetize their message every time they speak. From speaker sheets to back of the room products, clients receive high-level graphic design and expert branding strategy on how to use their marketing products.

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