Brewing up the right response

by Andy Lopata on February 10, 2012 · 0 comments

Sometimes alcoholic drinks can fuel the right kinds of networking conversations!

Although I often urge people not to open a conversation with a stranger with the question ‘what do you do?’ the chances are that you are going to be asked it at some point in a conversation. How you respond will often dictate the direction the conversation then takes.

For example, if you reply “I’m an accountant” and the other person has no interest in accountancy, you’ve found yourself in a verbal cul-de-sac and will both be struggling to move onto more interesting ground.

At one of the season’s many celebratory networking dinners, I had the pleasure of finding myself next to Megan. As we chatted away it became appropriate to ask Megan “What do you do?”.

“I work for Diageo”, Megan told me.

“The drinks company?” I asked. “What do you do there?”.

“Innovation”.

“Do you mean you invent new drinks?”.

Now, Megan is American and is still getting used to British culture. She had not yet fully realised just how much of a conversation starter the topic of alcoholic beverages can be! I suggested to Megan that the next time someone asks her “What do you do?” she simply replies, “I invent new drinks”.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, someone to the other side of me at dinner joined our conversation. I introduced the two of them and she immediately asked Megan, “What do you do?”.

“I invent new drinks”, said Megan.

Our new conversation partner almost fell backwards in her chair, her eyes opened wide and she exclaimed, “Wow!” She was immediately intrigued and had a host of questions, some serious and others humorous. The two of them settled into conversation with ease and a rapport was quickly established.

When people ask you what you do, try not to tell them who you work for or your job title. Instead, try to respond in a way that engages, whether through humour or by begging curiosity, leaving the other person wanting to know more.

Andy Lopata
Labelled ‘Mr Network’ by The Sun, Andy Lopata was called ‘one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists’ by the Financial Times. The co-author of two books on networking, Andy‘s third book, ‘Recommended: How to Sell Through Networking and Referrals’ was published by Financial Times Prentice Hall in July 2011.

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