The pandemic has sparked a new wave of how we interact both in our jobs, and in our social life. When it comes to networking and following your career path, this can now be done virtually, from the comfort of your own home, from the office, or even at a coffee shop, from your laptop. In order to make the most out of your virtual networking experience, you need to begin your discussion with an effective conversation starter. This is key to helping you and the other person begin the conversation smoothly, and eventually to connect on a deeper level in the rest of your virtual chat. Read on to discover some of the most effective conversation starters that top business leaders from across the country use to make the most out of a virtual networking experience.
Tell Me About Yourself
Michael Williamson, Marketing Manager Hoist
For a classic and very effective conversation starter, simply start by saying your name with a short introduction, and then open the floor to the person you’re meeting with at your virtual networking session by saying, “Tell me about yourself.” This will give them the opportunity to share more about themselves and will make them feel more comfortable. During this time, remember to make eye contact, and to really listen to what they’re saying. Afterwards, you should be able to comment about what they said, or even ask a couple of questions based off of their introduction, to get the conversation flowing. Make sure that you have your elevator pitch ready to go as well, so that when it’s your turn, you can tell the other person all about yourself. Then, you can dive into more specific topics, ask questions about each other’s roles and careers, and see how you can help one another to reach your career goals.
What’s Your Favorite Thing About Your Job?
Russell Lieberman, Founder & CEO Altan Insights
If you are attending a virtual networking event, start off by asking the person you’re meeting with an engaging and positive question about their line of work, such as “What’s your favorite thing about your job?” This conversation starter should immediately bring a smile to the person’s face, as they think about all of the things that they like about their job. An engaging question like this may also lead to the individual sharing a personal story with you. You’ll also get to envision yourself in this field and see if it may be a good fit for you down the line.
Where Are You From?
Fred Gerantabee, Chief Experience Officer Readers.com
The beauty of virtual networking is that it gives you the opportunity to meet new people from all over the world, who work in your industry, and who you may not have the chance to meet otherwise in person, because you live in different places. If this is the case for your next online networking event, then start off your conversation with someone by casually breaking the ice and asking where they are from. People love to talk about themselves, and share what they love about the city they live in. So, this will allow you to come up with some follow-up questions or statements of interest, about where they live. After you have each shared where you are from, you can then move on to asking about what it’s like working for their company, and so on.
If You Could Have Any Job In the World, What Would it Be?
Amanda E. Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer HIDE
Starting off the conversation at a virtual networking event with a lighthearted, but telling question, is a great way to learn about someone that you have never met before. Everyone has different goals and dreams, and so truly wanting to know about what would make a person the happiest, is a great way to help them relax and talk about something they truly find interesting. After exploring that question, you can then transition into discussing what you actually do for a living, and maybe even explore what your dream job and your current position have in common. You never know what connections this new person you are meeting with may have, and you actually learn a lot, and grow even closer to reaching your goals, by starting off your conversation with this creative conversation starter.
Start Your Conversation Off With a Question About Them
Andrea Xu, CEO Umamicart
When attending a virtual networking event, sometimes it can be intimidating to start the conversation. However, a great way to begin a compelling dialogue is to start your conversation off with a question. You can ask the other person about their role or ask them what they are looking to get out of the networking event. This is a surefire way to make the person you’re talking to more comfortable, and lets you know how you can help make their overall experience better as well. Then, you can begin to open up about your own career path and will hopefully find some commonalities between the two of you, or find places where your roles intersect.
How Did You Get Into This Industry?
Ashwin Sokke, Co-founder WOW Skin Science
If the virtual networking event that you are attending is in some way tied to the industry that you work in, then asking people how they got into the industry will be an effective conversation starter at this type of event. Everyone has a unique story and a different path that led them to where they are today, so being able to listen to others, as well as sharing about your own experiences, is a great way to understand the different stepping stones that people took that led them to their current role. This is also a very effective conversation starter for people who have been in your industry for a long time, as it will help you to better understand your future potential timeline as well.
Have You Worked on Any Interesting Projects Lately?
William Schumacher, Founder and CEO Uprising Food
Virtual networking provides professionals the opportunity to brainstorm and transfer ideas, all from the comfort of their own home. If you meet someone at an online networking event, and need an effective conversation starter, ask them if they have worked on any interesting projects lately. This question is perfect for a virtual networking session, because it allows both parties to share, give their input, and even help the other person to come up with more ideas to better their project. If the conversation goes well, then you can even use this question as a tool to reach out to this person again later on for a follow up. For instance, you can send them an email a few weeks later, and ask how the project is coming along. This will show the person that you were truly invested in the conversation, and that you want to maintain the professional connection. Maybe the two of you could even use your skills and work on a future project together.
What Do You Like to Do for Fun?
Chris Hetherington, Founder and CEO Peels
Sometimes during a virtual networking session, it is best to start the conversation off on a lighter note, by asking a fun, simple question to break the ice. You can do this by asking if the person has any hobbies, or simply saying, “So what do you like to do for fun?” This conversation starter is effective because it takes the pressure off the situation, and really allows the individual to share what they’re passionate about. Maybe the two of you can bond over a shared interest, and then transition from that to talking about your work.
Focus on Reaching Your Goals
Joyel Crawford, CEO Crawford Leadership Strategies
Introductions don’t have to be horribly painful. The key to efficient networking is to continue to do the things you would normally do in a real-life space. Virtual conferences are great times to share your thought leadership in ways that are more difficult in person. While it can be really overwhelming to be in a breakout room with like tens of thousands of people, focusing on conversations with one person at a time will make your interaction more meaningful. The key to networking is that it is not about you. It is about your intentions and goals. It is about making sure you’re reaching those things, that you are rising to the occasion of this conference.
Ask About Someone’s Job and Employer
Alison Doyle, Founder CareerToolBelt.com
Even though it can be hard to start a conversation when you’re one of those not-so-extroverted people, there are strategies you can employ to engage the person you’re talking with and to keep the conversation moving forward. Take time to create a brief elevator speech, so you’re ready to describe the professional you and what you do. Asking about someone’s job and employer are always good ways to get a conversation started. Once you’ve got over the hurdle of making an introduction to start the conversation, one of the easiest ways to continue the conversation is to make it about the person you’re talking to, rather than about yourself. Asking questions saves you from thinking about what to say and gives you an opportunity to ask follow-up questions that will keep the discussion going. It’s also fine to say that you’re new to this, you’re a bit nervous, and you’d be happy to have someone to talk to or to give you some advice.
So the next time you find yourself getting ready to attend a virtual networking event, make sure that you bring a positive attitude, dress professionally and prepare just like you would if the event were in-person. Most importantly, know which effective conversation starters you want to use. If you strike up a great conversation with someone and want the opportunity to connect with them later to learn more, make sure that you ask for their contact info before you end the call. This will ensure that you can reach out later to ask more questions, or even begin a mentoring relationship with that person, to help you grow in your career. Happy networking!short url: