Mastering meetings: The best questions to ask when networking in 2023

Mastering meetings: The best questions to ask when networking in 2023
No items found.

Networking can be a daunting task but it’s an essential part of business that delivers incredible value, if done correctly.

Whether you are looking to meet new people in the same industry, learn more about the job market, or gain insight into a certain sector, event engagement becomes even more pivotal and attending event networking sessions are the key to connecting with like-minded professionals.

It's easy to envy those that can make a conversation out of nothing. They just make it seem so simple, don't they? You probably walk away from networking events or meetings thinking about that person and wondering how they were able to capture everyone in the room that they spoke to.

It all starts with preparation. For example, what sort of networking questions should you ask during your meeting?

In this article, we explore how to prepare for a networking session, how to ask someone for a meeting, and the perfect questions to ask while networking in 2023.

How to prepare for an event networking session

Before getting into the specifics of what questions you should ask during a meeting and how to maximise your event engagement, it is important to ensure you are properly prepared.

This includes researching the person or organization(s) you will be meeting with, reading up on any current news related to their industry and preparing any talking points or conversational topics that relate to where your own interests and goals overlap with theirs.

How to find a networking session that maximizes event engagement

It’s time to research what event networking sessions are out there. These can be one-to-one, one-to-many or even many-to-many sessions. You can pay to attend events where pre-scheduled meetings between participants are offered or you can simply participate in free-to-attend meetup events.

Another good place to start is by attending a conference or tradeshow. These can sometimes be free to attend and often there is an event networking platform that will match you with the right participants while keeping your schedule organized. Before the event starts, you can increase your number of meetings by using the mobile event app to research useful participants and send them a meeting request.

When you reach out to someone, include a brief introduction about yourself, your goals and why you would like to meet them. However, it’s important not to be too pushy. Instead, try to end with an open-ended question so that the other person has room for flexibility to schedule a meeting with you.

They will appreciate your professionalism and respect for their time just as much as they will appreciate your interest in learning more about them and their industry.

What are the perfect questions to ask while networking in 2023?

Now that we know how to prepare for and request a networking meeting let’s look at some perfect questions to ask while networking.

Whilst you can categorize different types of questions (industry, work experience, career path and so on) it is important to ensure you add something about YOU into your questions too.

For example, are you into running? If you've done your research on your fellow networker and know they are also a runner, ask them about the last race they entered, or what they're training for. It will help you to build a much better relationship if you can relate to each other on a personal level and the conversation will then flow more easily. Remember, people do business with others they know, like and trust.

Here are the best questions to ask during networking, grouped into five topics:

1. Industry questions

These types of questions are perfect if you want to learn more about the industry, trends or specific topics.  Some examples of questions you can ask, include:

  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge your industry faces this year?
  • What do you think has been the most innovative product or service released in your sector recently?
  • What challenges does the industry face currently?
  • What do you consider the biggest market opportunities?
  • How have things changed over the course of your career in this field?

2. Career questions

Dale Carnegie once said: “To be interesting, first you need to be interested.” One way to do this is by asking a little more about the person’s current company or what it's like more broadly in the industry you're enquiring about.

  • What would you consider the most rewarding aspect of your current role?
  • What do you think sets your employer apart from others in the industry?
  • What is the work/life balance like in your company?
  • What is a typical day like in your job?
  • Do you do anything fun as a team together, outside of work?
  • How did you progress from where you started out professionally until now?
  • What do you think has been the most important thing that you've done to help reach your current role/position?
  • If you know what you know now, what's one thing you'd do differently in your career?

3. Diversity related questions

By embracing diversity in the workplace, everyone stands to gain. It can foster both personal and professional development opportunities for all involved and when properly implemented, its effects are far-reaching. Productivity gains from a more diverse organization have been shown time and again (this report claims it’s 1.32 times higher), making this an interesting topic to discuss.

  • How does diversity play a role within this company/industry/role?
  • What's the balance like in your company for diversity?
  • What do you think could be done better to foster an inclusive environment?
  • Do you have any suggestions for creating a positive impact on diversity in the workplace?
  • Is there any training at your company around inclusion and diversity?

4. Company specific questions

Asking company-related questions is important as it can help you to get a better understanding of the culture and environment as it pertains to them.

  • What's been your most memorable experience working there?
  • What sets this company apart from its competitors when it comes specifically hiring practices/benefits offered/culture etc.?
  • What are some of the biggest successes that this company has achieved?
  • What are some of the challenges you've faced at the company recently?
  • Do you like working at the company?
  • What's management like? Are they friendly and easily approachable?

5. Event specific questions

When you're at an in-person, virtual or hybrid event networking session, it's important to not seem like you're just demanding insider knowledge of the workings of a person's company or industry.

Here are some questions to ask that don't feel intrusive and keep the conversation going:

  • Is this your first time at the event?
  • How do you find the networking process?
  • What is your reason for being here today?
  • Who at this event would you most like to meet?
  • What would make this event more valuable for you?

How to end your networking meeting

Once the conversation is flowing and beginning to slow down, or it's time to move to the next meeting, getting this next part right is essential to ensure the relationship you have built stays strong.

1. Offering connection on LinkedIn or via business card

In most professional settings, your fellow networker should be on LinkedIn. Some people may prefer to connect this way rather than giving you their mobile or email address, so have your Linkedin QR code ready to be scanned, so they can instantly connect with you. Or if you want to go old school, simply hand them your business card.

2. Negotiating the next meeting

If there is a clear follow-up action from your conversation, suggest you set a follow-up meeting either online or in person. In the case of an online meeting, grab their correct details and send your invite within the next 24 hours to have the greatest impact.

Following that, if it's less urgent, you should also discuss when they'd like to book the meeting (immediately, next week, next quarter). This ensures your follow-up is even more effective and it shows you've listened when they receive your meeting request.

To close your meeting, thank the person for their time and wish them a great rest of the day and that you'll follow up with them post-meeting.

Questions to avoid when networking

Although networking should be an informal affair with some structure, there are certain topics of conversation that can spoil the mood or cause discomfort (politics, religion, sport, etc.)

You should also avoid joining in on jokes about other companies, individuals or groups. Not only is it unprofessional, but it could also make your colleague feel awkward or embarrassed and you could unintentionally offend someone else in the room.

Finally, relax – you’ll be great!

Don’t forget to relax and enjoy it. Some of the world’s biggest breakthroughs have occurred thanks to the meeting of minds. It can be the highlight of your event if you get to meet some great people who deliver real value.  

Networking sessions, fostering strong event engagement, provide an invaluable opportunity for professionals looking to make meaningful connections within their chosen fields.

However, knowing exactly what questions should be asked during these meetings can be intimidating. By planning ahead, doing your research, asking thoughtful questions and following up, you'll be on your way towards mastering the art of networking in no time at all.