Questions to spark a conversation

When I first read “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, I took the advice on asking questions way too seriously. In the book, he tells a story about sitting next to a botanist and asking him questions all night long. The botanist loved the attention, but did not ask the author anything about himself. Later, the botanist told someone that he had the “best conversation of his life” with the author, never realizing that it was completely one-sided.

Because of this story, I became the curious stranger in most of my new conversations. At one particular networking event, I engaged in full “question mode” for over 10 minutes with a person I just met. She was very uncomfortable and got away from me as fast as she could!

What was my mistake? Nobody likes to feel like they are being interviewed!

Since then, I’ve learned that conversation is more like a tennis match – banter back and forth, lobbing questions at the person, listening to their answer, and then returning answers with your own stories. In theory, the person will ask you a question, too, but even if they don’t, you can still give them insights into your life during the conversation.

Keeping all that in mind, below is a list of questions you might ask during your one-on-one meetings or networking events to get to know someone better. Remember to add your own experiences and information to the conversation.

Want to build more trust with your new connections? Check out this guide on how to be a good referral partner and what keywords to be listening for during your conversations.

Potential questions to ask a new connection:

What does your business do? What's your role there?

How did you get into this career?

What do you enjoy about your job?

What are your professional goals?

Who is your ideal client?

Where have you been focusing your efforts to finding clients?

What’s something really interesting about your industry that most people don’t know?

Do you belong to any community groups or networking organizations?

Personal questions:

What’s something you love about this city/this state?

Do you have any travel plans coming up?

What’s your favorite restaurant locally?

What’s something fun you do outside of work?

Did you move here from somewhere else? What’s something from your home state that you wish we had locally?

Remember you are there to be curious about someone and learn! Good luck and let me know if you found other questions to add to the list.