February 5, 2011 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I've agreed to participate in a speed networking event. I'll be chatting with 20-30 people. How do I keep it fresh and not ask each person the same question? What can/do I want to know about someone in 3 minutes? How do I use this to improve my own 'elevator speech'?
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I always liked Art Linkletter's question, "What did your parents tell you not to say on television?"
posted by Bruce H. at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2011

It's fresh by design, since you're seeing someone new every few minutes. I think it's okay to ask each person the same question, since it's new to them... just make sure it's a really good question.

Is this an industry-specific event? Or is it just a city professionals' group from all walks of life? Knowing how niche you can go with your background would be helpful.
posted by pineapple at 8:51 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the key is to have your elevator speech really polished prior to the event, not to improve it afterward. I mean, obviously you should pay attention throughout the course of the event for ways to improve how you're presenting yourself, but if you have 3 minutes with each person you should show up ready to explain your background and goals succinctly.

The one time I went to a similar event, it worked best if each person just started out by introducing themselves and explaining a smidge about their background, without anyone having to ask, "What's your name?" "What field are you in?" etc. Hopefully you will discover (a) common ground, in which case you should be able to think of something relevant to talk about, or (b) complete non-intersection, which is rare but should give you a chance to learn something.

Specific questions worth asking depend a lot on the setup of the event and your reasons for being there. Are you all in the same industry? Do the participants have similar or different levels of experience? What are you, personally, hoping to get out of attending? Maybe some of these will be useful, or might hint at something better:
- Where do you think your industry is going in the next 5-10 years?
- What's the biggest challenge in your job/industry?
- When you were just starting out (like me), what do you wish you'd known?
- What do you think about [XYZ new development in the industry]?
- Where do you hope to be, career-wise, in 10 years?
posted by vytae at 9:44 AM on February 5, 2011

Oh, and don't be afraid to ask for connections outside of the event, too! "Oh, what you do sounds very close to what I'm interested in. Do you know anybody who is doing [more specific thing that you care about] that I could talk to?"
posted by vytae at 9:47 AM on February 5, 2011

What's the best question you've been asked tonight?

Tell me a secret.

Tell me something I wouldn't guess about you by looking at you

Tell me about the happiest time in your life.

What would you tell yourself 10 years ago.

Who's your favorite person in the world?

Are you where you expected to be?

When did you first learn that people can.be surprising?
posted by vitabellosi at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2011

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