2 Little Words That Will Up Your Networking Game

Adrian Granzella Larssen | Smart Brief on Leadership | 06.22.14


Ever found yourself in a networking conversation that seems to be going nowhere? You ask what you think are great questions but get one-word answers bounced back, and pretty soon you have nothing left to say (and start downing your drink so you can excuse yourself to “go get a refill”).

But while you may get stuck with generally awkward conversationalists from time to time, there are a few ways you can change up what you’re doing and saying to ensure that almost any first-time chat is a great one.

Here’s a quick but effective tip that Jacqueline Whitmore, etiquette coach and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, gives in a video for Entrepreneur: Ask open-ended questions, and start them with the phrase, “Tell me.”

It sounds simple, but those two words are a cue that you’re engaged in the conversation and fascinated by what you might learn, in turn making your networking partner excited to share and open up. “Anytime you start a sentence with ‘tell me,’ it launches into scintillating conversation,” she says.

Here are a few to try at your next networking event:

  • Instead of: “What do you do?
    • Try: “Tell me, what’s been keeping you busy lately?


  • Instead of: “Do you like working there?
    • Try: “Tell me, what’s it like working there?”


  • Instead of: “Are you enjoying the event?”
    • Try: “Tell me, what’s been the best part of the event for you?”


  • Instead of: “How’s business?”
    • Try: “Tell me, what are you most focused on right now?”


  • Instead of: “What were you doing before this job?”
    • Try: “Tell me, how did you get to where you are now?”


  • Instead of: “What do you do outside of work?”
    • Try: “Tell me, what are you excited about outside of work?”


  • Instead of: “What are you doing this summer?”
    • Try: “Tell me, what are you looking forward to this summer?”


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