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The Futureforth Blog

Helpful tips and articles about social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking. 

Filtering by Tag: ice breakers

Is "What Do You Do?" a Bad Question?

Dave Delaney

There is a school of thought that asking a person what they do for a living is a bad icebreaker. I discovered this recently, while I was at a conference speaking with a friend. He explained that he was tired of the question, because there is so much more about a person than what they do for a living. I pondered the thought and I agreed at the time. However, I read a book recently (hat tip to Chris Brogan) that changed my thinking on whether or not this is a good question to ask somebody you meet. In "Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money" by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, he justifies why asking what you do for a living is an important icebreaker.

Lapin writes, “What do you do for a living? is a legitimate question because the inquirer really wants to know what the person does for other people. He or she is wondering how others find you useful. How you help your fellow humans is a proud part of your identity. The only person to be embarrassed by the question is one who has no answer.”

We should be proud of what we do. If we are ashamed or embarrassed, than we should probably be seeking other means of work. The question is valid and should be answered with pride.

Lapin continues, “… no matter how you serve your fellow humans, think of yourself as doing something fascinating; see yourself in business, rather than merely being something.”

What do you do for a living?

When I get asked what I do, I reply that I help people understand how to truly use social media and content marketing to grow their business. If they ask me for more details, I explain how I audit what they are doing online, make recommendations and provide them with a way to measure the results to be sure they succeed.

What is it that you do? Take a moment right now to grab a piece of paper and a pen and write out a short paragraph. Repeat it out loud to yourself. How does it sound? If it feels good, read it to a colleague or your spouse for their opinion. My wife, Heather, provides me with feedback that always helps with everything from client work to writing my book, "New Business Networking." Test your own answer to ensure it accurately paints a picture that someone asking will understand.

I was picking up a few things at my local, big-box hardware store last weekend, when I was blatantly reminded that the holidays are just around the corner. I’m not talking about Halloween or Thanksgiving, I’m talking about the one with the big jolly fella in red. Every professional knows that with holidays come holiday parties, which makes the season perfect for honing our networking skills.

The next time you find yourself at a networking event, mixer or conference, don’t hesitate to ask someone what they do. Ask her a few follow-up questions to learn more about her business. When the time comes, she will likely ask you what you do. Be proud to explain how you help people with your work. She may even become your next customer.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.

Refresh: The Ice Breaker App

Dave Delaney

Refresh app
Refresh app

UPDATE: Don't miss my interview with Refresh Co-founder and CEO, Bhavin Shaw. A quick Google search for "business networking apps" revealed 818,000 results! It's clear that busy, business people are seeking ways to network more effectively with their mobile devices. Besides LinkedIn's own apps that improve networking, I have come across one that really stands out, Refresh.

Refresh is an app unlike any other, because it provides you with enough details about a person to start a conversation. It is the ultimate ice-breaker tool!

By installing the app and giving it access to your social networking profiles and address book, it quickly learns details about everyone you know (and even those you don't know). Sync it with your calendar, and Refresh will send you a dossier using it's "insight engine" before your next meeting.

Let's say I have a meeting scheduled with the Tennessean's very own Lance Williams tomorrow. I can expect an email alert to be sent from Refresh today. I ran this as a test, and the email I received included the following information.

  • Lance has been working at the Tennessean for a little over one year. It includes other businesses where Lance has worked and provides me with additional details.
  • Who Lance's significant other is.
  • His birthday is April 10th, and he shares it with celebrity, Shay Mitchell. He also shares it with three of my contacts.
  • It includes politicians Lance follows, which gives me insight into his likely political party of choice. Never assume anything though.
  • He attended the University of Kentucky.
  • His LinkedIn summary says he has more than a decade of professional journalism experience as both a reporter and an editor. His current emphasis is on business journalism, but he has experience with criminal justice, governmental issues, and public reporting.
  • He lives in Tennessee and has also lived in Kentucky and Ohio.
  • It provides me with news articles Lance was mentioned in.
  • Refresh says, "Ask Lance about this (Facebook) status post, "So, University of Kentucky basketball fans, I was editing a business story and came across the best engineering firm name in history Anderson Deik Epps, & Associates".
  • Refresh also suggests I ask Lance about his check-in at the Nashville Sounds where he said, "Guess which girl is bored with baseball already."
  • I can see my first and most recent email correspondences with Lance.
  • It shows me 27 contacts that Lance and I both have in common.
  • It shares "Moments", which include popular Twitter tweets from Lance.
  • Refresh provides me with plenty of sports topics Lance has shared on social networks.
  • I can see photos Lance has shared recently.
  • The app also includes links to each of Lance's social networking profiles.

"Well, this sounds a little invasive."

I know what you may be thinking, "Well, this sounds a little invasive." It's not. All of the information gathered has been shared publicly by the person, and it is extremely valuable.

What if Lance was a potential client? Wouldn't I want to know as much about him as possible before our meeting? Refresh's meeting dossier provides enough information for me to make a comfortable icebreaker. The first chapter of my book, New Business Networking, is all about doing your homework first. C-level executives and politicians have always received meeting dossiers, now we can have them too.

The company has recently developed an app for Google Glass, so you will receive the information as you are looking at the person. Straight away, I picture Terminator looking for Sarah Connor in the 1984 classic film. At least this time, no tragic mistakes will occur.

According to a TechCrunch article by Ryan Lawler, Refresh has seven employees with experience from companies like LinkedIn, Google, and Microsoft. They have recently received 10 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures, Charles River Ventures, and Foundation Capital; so expect Refresh to stick around.

Taking the time to get to know a person before you meet is a great way to kick-start your conversation. It can also earn you the respect of the person you're meeting with, because they will be impressed that you took the time to do some research. Little will they know that it was all thanks to a single app.

Refresh promises to put an end to small talk. It is available for free for iPhone, iPad, and Google Glass. An Android version is coming soon. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

This article, “Refresh app is ultimate icebreaker“, originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.

Break the Ice and Listen Better

Dave Delaney

Photo by Jay MorrisonThe following is my second article on business networking in the Tennessean newspaper. You can find the original published on September 12th on their site. Thanks for reading this and sharing it with your friends. I enjoyed a mixer event this week put on by NAMA, the Nashville Chapter of the North American Marketing Association. (Full disclosure: I am a board member.) The event was a fun opportunity to mix with marketers from the Greater Nashville area. It also inspired this article.

I am often intrigued by listening to the conversations occurring around me at different events. Small talk is not as easy in practice as you may think.

Here are two words you should focus on before your next networking event: FORD and LISTEN.

F.O.R.D.

FORD is an acronym that stands for family, occupation, recreation and dreams. If you are looking for an ice-breaker, look no further than these four words. Choose one to ask someone about and it will surely lead you into an interesting conversation.

L.I.S.T.E.N.

The second acronym is LISTEN. This stands for look interested, involve yourself by responding, stay on target, test your understanding, evaluate the message and neutralize the feelings.

When you ask the person you meet a question, you must look interested in their reply. Look them in their eyes (don’t stare) and truly listen to what they are telling you. Involve yourself by smiling, nodding and responding. Add short interjections such as “I see,” “go on” and “interesting.” Add a follow-up question such as, “What did you do next?” or “How did that make you feel?”

Stay on target by not allowing yourself to be distracted during a conversation. Do this by picturing the speaker as the only person in the room. Do your best not to look away, at your watch or phone, or over their shoulder as they are speaking to you.

Test your understanding by repeating what the person has told you in a conversational manner: “So what you are saying is,” and “So if I understand correctly you are ...” These are helpful phrases to begin with.

Evaluate what the person has said. Take a moment to consider the information you have received. Think about how you can follow up to assist this person.

Can you make an introduction for them to one of your LinkedIn contacts? Should you email them tomorrow to invite them for a coffee so you can learn more about their needs?

It can happen. We can meet someone who rubs us the wrong way. Perhaps they have given you incorrect information that you know to be untrue. Neutralize your feelings. Don’t put them on the spot by correcting them. This can make the person uncomfortable. Instead, you can thank them for their time, shake their hand and move on to a new conversation.

Networking shouldn’t feel like work. By asking great conversation-starting questions and listening effectively, you will become a better networker. I go into great detail about these topics and more in my book, New Business Networking, but I hope this article leaves you inspired to attend a local event and meet new people soon.

The final note I want to leave you with is to remember to follow up. You should always send an email to tell the person you enjoyed meeting them. Consider the next step in the email, is there a way you can help them? You should also include a LinkedIn connection request to grow your professional network.

More on LinkedIn here. Now get out there and meet some people.

How do you break the ice when you meet new people?

Photo by Jay Morrison


The article, "Make the most of your next mixer", originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.