By Sacha Kiesman
Networking can be a necessary evil for professionals. Everyone knows how important it is, yet many still have to psych themselves up when approaching new groups of people. During WordLab’s open house on June 13th, I had a chance to practice my networking skills. We had a great variety of people from a wide range of disciplines come check out WordLab. I didn’t want to be bored with small talk so I figured that if I asked the right questions, I could have a night of interesting conversation with our guests.
During the open house I found that I could use small talk as a jumping off point to learn what people were passionate about. Then I tried asking very specific questions regarding those passions, making sure my questions came from a place of genuine curiosity. I reasoned that if I was invested in their answer, it would make for more authentic conversation.
I ended up having a lot of great conversations. The best all began with specific questions. I asked a dance photographer about the most beautiful dance he’s ever seen. I asked a brewer about what makes for a Saison beer. I asked an ad executive about his opinion on billboards and I asked a woman about the tastiest mushrooms she’s found while foraging. I loved watching how people lit up when asked about something they really want to be asked about.
People are more interesting when interested. When you ask the right questions, the other person gets to speak on their passion and it’s more engaging for you as a listener. For example, I met a condo developer at the event. Condos do not have a reputation as particularly eclectic or interesting. However, one woman talked about condos in such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable way that it turned out to be one of my favorite conversations of the night.
The work we do at WordLab is often about finding the story, finding the hook. Connecting with people is the same way. It’s a process of finding the story that sparks passion in the other person. No one wants to leave an event with only weather speculation and information about where everyone grew up and graduated from. I appreciated the opportunity to use this work event to become a better networker. I learned networking events don’t have to be dreaded. I can just look forward to having some interesting conversations with some passionate folks.