Tips for carbon-based networking

Nov 10 08:35 2009 Mike Consol Print This Article

If you’re spending so much time networking online that you’re offline networking skills have rusted, you’ve done yourself a big disservice. Then again, many people never did acquire good interpersonal networking skills. With this blog post you’ll learn the single secret to effective networking. As a bonus, how about two fistfuls of examples you can put to immediate use?

Every now and then,Guest Posting despite our best efforts to the contrary, we must tear ourselves away from computers, hand-held devices and other electronic components and actually talk to another human being. Yes, a carbon-based flesh-and-blood earthling.


What’s a modern, Web 2.0-er to do? We know how to Tweet and Ping and go viral to simultaneously network with thousands of remote and anonymous people in one fell swoop. We’ve got that down cold. But now we’re in a room and there are people standing around. We need to talk and rediscover the true meaning of being interactive and (god forbid!) interpersonal.


Clearly, the above paragraphs are laced with a fair dose of hyperbole. And it would behoove me not to forget that many people were wallflowers in social situations long before the internet and its social media applications came along. Then and now a big percentage of people struggle to work a room.


“I just don’t know what to say,” is a common refrain.


The truth is networking can be made simple if we just keep one simple activity in mind: ask questions.


We don’t have to regale people with dazzling stories or fascinating kibbles and bits of information. Just asking questions of the people we meet leads us to rediscover an eternal truth – people LOVE talking about themselves. Businesspeople ADORE telling others about the captivating projects and initiatives they’re launching.


Of course, I’ve learned over the years that many people aren’t very good interviewers. It’s all they can do to think up a couple of relevant questions to ask.


So here’s some help. Next time you attend a chamber mixer, industry expo or business luncheon, consider asking any of these 10 questions developed by sales trainer Jill Konrath.


  • How did you get your start in this business?
  • What do you enjoy most about what you do?
  • What separates your company from your competition?
  • What advice would you give someone just getting started in your business?
  • What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you couldn't fail?
  • Over the years, what significant changes have you seen take place in your profession?
  • What do you see as the coming trends in your business?
  • Describe the strangest (or funniest) incident you've ever experienced in your business.
  • What ways have you found to be most effective for promoting your business?
  • What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way     you do business?


Some excellent questions from Ms. Konrath. Any of them will likely encourage people to open up in networking situations.


Prompted by those examples, I have little doubt we can think of many more ice-breaking questions. Of course, always keep in mind that the real magic of asking good questions is listening carefully to the answers and asking the natural follow-up questions.


A handy way to learn the art of good interviewing skills and follow-up questions is by tuning into the Charlie Rose Show on PBS or listening to the Diane Rehm Show or Fresh Air with Terry Gross, both aired by National Public Radio.


Assuming the person you’re networking with is any kind of lady or gentleman, they will reciprocate by asking questions about you as well. That’s your chance to start building a meaningful relationship and eventually selling yourself or your services to a new contact.


Get on it. Networking is one of the most important skills you can master for developing new business – online or offline.

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Mike Consol
Mike Consol

Mike Consol is president of, which provides business writing seminars, Web 2.0 strategies and media training to midsize and large companies. Consol spent 17 years with American City Business Journals, the nation’s largest publisher of metropolitan business journals with 40 weekly newspapers across the United States.

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