While many find networking to be stressful and boring, it does not have to be. The key to great networking is to have questions prepared in advance that start actual conversations and not just small talk. Here are some examples:
1) Have you been to [city], [event space] or [conference] before? Trying to connect over the general environment is a good, natural conversation starter.
2) How did you get involved in [topic]? People like to tell their story. You may find some common ground in your backgrounds.
3) What are you passionate about? This question is a good way to get the conversation going about more than just work. It shows that you are interested in them as a person and not just as an employee of a certain company.
4) What's on your reading list? Not only does this question provide you with the opportunity to potentially bond over a book you have both read, it can lead to a new topic or resource you can explore later.
5) What are your hobbies? Learning about someone's hobbies can make it easier to remember them as well as give you a sense of who they are outside of work.
Remember when networking to be engaging and listen actively. Avoid the following:
- Dominating the conversation. You can guide the conversation but don't make it all about you.
- Talking to the same people the whole time. Even if you have hit it off with a group of people - make sure you visit with different groups of people to further your professional development.
- Talking negatively about people or companies. You never know who knows who or who you might end up working with.