Networking events present exceptional opportunities to meet new people, make valuable connections, explore collaborations, and stay updated with the latest trends in the industry. To make the most of these occasions, it can be helpful to plan ahead which questions you’ll ask when meeting someone new.   

We asked Powderkeg executive members for their go-to questions they ask when meeting someone new at a networking event. In this article, we will equip you with actionable and easy-to-understand questions that will enhance your networking and help you build meaningful relationships in the tech and startup community.

1. “What are you passionate about?”

Among the various questions, there is arguably one question that trumps them all: “What are you passionate about?”. This question helps break the ice but it also provides a deeper insight into the person’s values, interests, and aspirations. Passion is the driving force behind success, and it serves as an indication of the level of commitment, dedication, and motivation that someone has towards their pursuits.

Emily Finkelstein, CEO at VentureXpert Advisors

2. “How can I help?” 

Taking care of my community is top of mind when I attend a networking event. Maybe you need an introduction to someone, or ideas on where to host a company offsite. As a “human switchboard” I can probably point you in the right direction and there’s a good chance I have someone in mind who needs to meet you!

Tamre Mullins, Director of Operations at Glassboard

3. “Where are you from?” 

There’s something inherently powerful about our individual origin stories, regardless of where we were born or what we experienced there. It’s an easy thing for any of us to talk to, and it creates a simple start to a conversation. Not to mention, it’s something personal versus professional, which is where I’d rather start with someone I just met.

Joseph Loria, Founder at RetentionworCX

Everyone came from somewhere, and good or bad, there’s a story! If they are from my home city/state, I usually have a relatable anecdote that gets a conversation started. If they are a ‘transplant’ to my city, I follow it with, “What brought you to Indy?” It’s an easy, low-risk topic and never fails to start a conversation that feels authentic. Plus, it often leads to them offering up their profession without having to ask my least favorite question, “What do you do?”

Robin Lanning, VP of Sales & Marketing at Tactive


4. “What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about?”

One question I always ask at networking events is, “What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about?” Answers will range from person to professional and create engaging, memorable conversations.

Karen Mangia, President & Chief Strategy Officer at The Engineered Innovation Group


5. “What do you like best about this event?”

“What do you like best about this event?” or “What resources are you reading, listening, or watching to keep current in our industry?” These questions give your new acquaintance immediate respect and give you valuable market data.

Paul Dreier, CEO at Novilytic

6. “Why do you do what you do?”

Everyone has a Why, and it always leads to a deeper story.

Hayley Brown, Marketing Director at Groundwork

7. “Pizza, burgers, or tacos?”

Then I followup with the why that choice, or drill down further into (for example) steak, chicken, or fish tacos? Why? It catches people off guard and makes people smile. It’s a fun ice breaker.

Trevor Ewigleben, Account Executive at Trava


We hope these example questions can help you build relationships that make a lasting impact within the tech and startup community. It can be helpful to remember to approach each conversation with genuine curiosity, actively listen to the responses, and always stay open to new connections and possibilities. After all, networking is about building authentic relationships, and having a helpful spirit and easygoing attitude can leave a lasting impression.  

We hope these networking tips from the community will help you start conversations at your next professional networking event!

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