Networking events…most fundraisers either love them or hate them.
We’ve all heard the basic tips, like don’t try to break into a big group and to seek out the loners off to the side. But then, what do we ask about? We ask about work! (It’s what everybody just finished doing, after all). But, even if you love your job, you probably don’t want to talk about work at this point in the day.
So what should you talk about? In a bit, I’ll share two great networking questions that I use a lot, and will point your conversations in the right direction.
But first, let’s take a step back. What’s our goal at these events? It’s not to get donations. It’s not to talk about business. Our goal, really, is to build connections with people. To find common ground and start a new relationships that we can deepen later. Maybe it’ll lead to donations or other connections down the line, but that’s not our primary goal at the event.
So if it (work) is not our primary goal, why are we talking about it?! Instead, let’s talk about HUMAN things – interests or hobbies that allow us to build common ground. Our favorite sports teams. Our kids and families. The good stuff!
To start these kinds of conversations, my favorite question is: “What do you like to do when you’re not at work or events like this?” Bingo – instantly they start talking about their hobbies or their family or something important to them. Then you can find common ground and have a conversation about that.
My second favorite question, if it’s somebody a little more fun or we just have some good initial conversation, is “What are you nerding out to these days?” The word “nerd” itself kind of creates a chuckle, and fun. And then they just get into what they’re interested in.
So those are my questions. Use those, or come up with your own. There’s lots of great lists of other networking questions online, but the key is not not talk about work at networking events. Talk about interests. Talk about stuff that’s fun. You’ll be memorable and you’ll build stronger connections.