Conversation starters part 2

February 25, 2006

This text sequels the previous post.

Because it is not only important what you say, but also how you say it, I will give you some examples of sentences you might use. Of course some of the questions are easier in one situation than another. Let them inspire you to make your own!

Open questions:

  • What in the program appealed to you?
  • Who do you know of the organisation?
  • How well do you know the other attendees?
  • What aspect of your job do you like the most?
  • Who invited you?
  • Where did you hear of this event?
  • What activities is your organisation involved in?
  • What makes your organisation special? What makes your organisation unique or different than others?
  • Where does your name come from? Does it have a special meaning?
  • Where do you come from?
  • Besides your work, what are your other interests?
  • What’s your opinion on the latest technology breakthrough in our industry?
  • How do you feel about meeting other people at networking events?
  • What’s your favourite sport?

Closed questions (are best followed by an open question):

  • “Are you a member of the organisation?”
    • Answer = Yes: “For how long?” or “What do you like best about the organisation?”
    • Answer = No: “Are you planning to become a member?” “Why (not)?” “Which requirements do you have when considering joining an organisation?”
  • “Is this your first time at this location/event/this year/…?”
    • Yes: “What are your expectations?” “Who do you like to meet?” “Who can I introduce you to?”
    • No: “What are the differences with other times?”
  • “Did you watch the game of the national soccer team yesterday?”
    • Yes: “What would you have done if you were the national coach?” (almost every sports fan has his own opinion about how to play)
    • No: “Do you like soccer and sports?” or “What’s your favourite sport?”

My golden tip is to begin your question with: “How do you feel about…?” This is a very safe question. You don’t ask the other person about his opinion. When a person has to phrase his opinion, he would like to give the best possible answer after considering the pro’s and contra’s. So he has to be careful about what he is going to say and how he is going to formulate it. A question about a feeling is less “threatening”: “It is only a feeling”. But in fact you get the best possible reply, because people tend to decide emotionally (feelings) and explain their decision rationally. So if you get a “feeling response” you know that this is something that really affects someone. This is a good basis to really connect with another person, beyond the usual business or superficial talk.

To your networking success !


PS: this is an excerpt from my networking book “Let’s Connect!” (


Conversation starters part 1

February 18, 2006

In my training courses people always ask me for conversation starters or the so-called ice breakers. I strongly recommend that you don’t really prepare your openers, but talk to people spontaneously. However I still want to give you a head start, so here are some suggestions.


  • Physical location
  • Event and its theme and/or program
  • Organisation
  • Name of the other person
  • Name and/or activity of the organisation the other person represents
  • Job or function
  • Town where the other person works or lives
  • Hobbies and other interests
  • General news
  • Sports
  • Developments in the field of interest of the organisation of the event or of the person you are talking to

On business events it is also OK to use clichés. Or at least it is less a turn off than in a bar or nightclub. So you can talk about the weather or about the traffic. The most important thing is that you get the conversation started. But in fact I hope you will make the effort and think about some more original and interesting openers. It is also better for your reputation. If you are able to ask good questions, people will remember you better.

Have a great networking day !


PS: part 2 next week !

PPS: this is an excerpt from my networking book “Let’s Connect!” (

The importance of an Elevator Story

February 10, 2006

Remember the 6 degrees of proximity? Everybody has on average 250 direct contacts. In second degree we have 31250 contacts. But we can’t tell our Elevator Story to those 31250 people ourselves. So our direct contacts should be able to “represent” us when they are talking with their direct contacts. This means they should be able to tell them your Elevator Story almost as well as you do.

Crafting a good Elevator Story is not easy, and in fact almost impossible. Why? Because every situation is different. There is no one-fits-all Elevator Story. So you have to be creative to adapt your Elevator Story to your specific situation.

“If my Elevator Story is different every time, what’s the use of preparing it?” you might ask.

Most people I meet never thought even one second about their Elevator Story. Just taking the time to think about one and draft it is sometimes already enough to have the necessary ingredients and enough self-confidence to improvise at all future occasions.

In my experience it is also very powerful to sit down with all people involved and narrow down an Elevator Story for your organisation, your department or your team.

Especially in sales teams this is a very good exercise. The sales representatives learn from each other how they talk about the organisation and how they present themselves. This not only inspires the participants and boosts their self-confidence, but they also get to know each other better. Because of the positive act of working towards a joint goal (the Elevator Story) this is a simple team building exercise with great results!

Have a great networking day !


PS: this is an excerpt from my networking book “Let’s Connect!” (

Networking versus Selling: Farming versus Hunting

February 4, 2006

A metaphor that is commonly used in books and articles about networking, is that of the farm. It is the analogy of farming in contrast to hunting. Where networking is like farming and hard selling is like hunting. Stephen Covey uses another analogy in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. He talks about Products and Production Capability.

Let’s see how the concept of the farm and that of Covey apply to networking.

Back in prehistoric days, people went out to hunt animals in order to have some food. Every time they killed for example a chicken, they had immediate food (product), but they were also obliged to go hunting the next day because they also killed a “production capability” for eggs. This is short term thinking.

Later on our ancestors built farms where they grew crops and kept animals, not (only) for their meat, but for other products like eggs, milk or for breeding more animals. These small investments brought security and a higher level of prosperity. The investments didn’t always guarantee a return. Diseases, floods, earthquakes and other tricks of nature caused many troubles. But by diversifying and looking at long term results and by knowing the power of the seasons, farmers benefited.

A farmer knows that he can’t expect to harvest in autumn when he didn’t sow in spring. But he also knows that when he sows many of those little seeds, the odds for a bigger harvest are much higher. So what does he do? In spring he sows, in summer he nurtures and in autumn he reaps. And does he stop there? No, he prepares for the next year. He doesn’t consume all corn, he keeps some of the seeds so they can be sown the next year.

It is the same with networking. You never know when and how things are going to come to you. But they will. The more seeds you plant, the higher the profits of your networking efforts. The better you nurture your relationships, the more willing they will be to help you benefit. And last but not least, if your contacts with your network are good, you can always ask them for more “networking seeds”. Meaning that you can always ask them for introductions and referrals.

Have a great networking day!


PS: this is an excerpt from my book “Let’s Connect!” (

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