Networking is an essential element to grow a business. It gives entrepreneurs a chance to meet others in their own industry and related Industries, making connections which can be beneficial for both parties. Networking can give a business owner insight into their competition, alert them to upcoming changes in their industry, and perhaps find some referrals. There’s no question that it is a necessary part of building a business by representing a brand.
Questions Not to Ask at Networking Events
The most common advice about networking focuses on etiquette and attire. It informs you how to present yourself in a professional manner and what is appropriate to wear, depending on the venue and occasion. However, it is equally important to know what not to do, including asking inappropriate questions. While some topics and questions are definitely off-limits, there are others which are not so obvious. Some of these might first seem to be innocuous, but they can be annoying, aggravating, or, even offensive to the person you’re trying to connect with professionally.
We all know that networking is important, and is a vital part of a successful career. For many of us, that requires going to events and meeting new people. Industry conferences, conventions, and networking social events are pervasive, and vie for just about every evening on our calendars. Yet, when you ask most people how much they like networking events, they’ll tell you they’d rather do most anything than make small talk with a room full of strangers. —Forbes
When you’re interacting with interlocutors, you certainly don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. First and foremost, you shouldn’t be a salesperson, pushing your products and services to everyone you encounter. That’s a turn-off to most people; even to those who engage in the same behavior (largely because they are more interested in selling you what they offer). Obviously, you shouldn’t remark about physical features, particularly those which are abnormal. In addition, you should also stay clear of certain topics (e.g. religion and politics) and know there are other questions not to ask at networking events:
- Is this your first time here? Although this seems like a completely harmless question to ask, it can quickly lead to a very awkward, stilted conversation because of what the other person might read into it. Think about it this way, if you were asked the same question you’d wonder why it’s even being asked. It’s just a question that really doesn’t encourage someone else to engage in a conversation.
- Where do you find leads? When you first meet someone, you ought to be gracious and courteous. This question is too prying and lets the other person know you’re networking for your gain, putting yourself first and have little concern about others.
- Where are you from? If you detect an accent, it’s best not to ask because you don’t have the slightest clue what the response will be and what emotions you’re stirring. Should you speak with someone who has an accent, just have a casual conversation and if he or she volunteers the information, that’s fine.
- What is it you do? Though this might come-up during the course of a conversation, it definitely should not be one of the first questions you ask. If you ask this at the beginning of the encounter, you’re essentially telling the other person you are trying to qualify him or her as a potential customer, and, not making an effort to befriend him or her.
- When are you due? If you encounter a pregnant woman, you should avoid this question unless she brings-up the topic. Similar to the accent situation, you don’t know her circumstances and you certainly don’t want to upset her. I personally made this mistake and of all places, I asked the question at my 10 year anniversary! Besides being personally embarrassed when she said, “I am not.”, my question was not flattering to her. I learned my lesson!
Instead of asking these questions, compliment someone on what they’re wearing, or, ask about how he or she heard about the event. When you start a conversation, be sure to listen attentively and keep the topics light and uplifting.