If you’ve been out networking before, you already know that “What do you do?” is one of the first questions people ask you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t leave you much room to maneuver after both you and your fellow networker have answered the question for each other. A typical conversation might go like this:
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m a public relations consultant. How about you?”
“I see. Well, I own a print shop.”
(Awkward four-second pause that seems to go on forever.)
Look how much better it works if you follow up with our question:
“Oh, a print shop. That’s interesting. What do you like best about the printing business?”
This leads to more interesting conversation about the other person’s business, his likes and dislikes, her experience, and so forth. It makes the conversation flow and lets you relax while you learn about his/her trade or profession.
What’s more, if they are like most of us, they will eventually decide they’ve talked enough and will ask you the same question: what do you like best about your business? Be ready with a response that answers the question, addresses key points, and explains how you’re different from others in the industry. If the person is thinking about using a PR firm or knows someone else who might need one, then you’ve gone a long way toward setting the stage for a possible referral.