The Art of Starting Conversations

September is just around the bend, and with it comes a new beginning for building business relationships. The fall is a great time to get involved with a new group or revive your activities with an existing organization. Often, industry groups get started with networking events in the fall, which then kick off a series of opportunities to build relationships over time.

I had an experience at one of these events that sparked a great business and personal relationship with a woman in the legal marketing industry, back in the 90s.  It was September and I had just joined the LMA.  I didn’t know a soul, but wanted to see what the group was all about.  I walked into that first meeting and felt a little overwhelmed and out of place.  I spotted a woman about my age checking in at the registration desk.  I asked her a simple question:  “do you come to these meetings regularly?” and turns out that she was also at her first meeting.  We hit it off, made an effort to have lunch routinely and attend future meetings together.  The result has been a fantastic relationship both personally and professionally.  We have both been involved in the LMA leadership together over the last dozen years, sharing successes and failures in our mutual career paths along the way.

An experience like this is great.  Some may say it is rare.  I say it is only as rare as you make it.  Starting conversations and maintaining touch points over time creates long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial. Are you ready to begin conversations with new people?  Here are a few sample questions you can use to jumpstart some of those conversations.

  • What is your connection to this event?
  • What do you do for work?
  • What keeps you busy outside of work?
  • What other groups are you involved in besides this one?
  • What got you interested in … ?

All of these questions are leading questions that help generate further conversation. Practice a few of these before you leave for your next event. Try them out and see what kind of interesting information you can learn from the new people you meet. Keep a few notes about these conversations on the back of the business cards you collect during these conversations so that you may follow-up on the discussions. It can be fun to uncover what motivates others to join the same groups that you are involved in. Perhaps you will make a life-long friend.  I can tell you it is definitely worth the effort!