“So tell me what your company does?”
When I get this question, I start thinking about what else I need to do today. Why? Despite having LinkedIn, Company websites, databases available via public library, etc., it tells me that this person across the table has not even taken 5 minutes to do a simple search.
Your willingness to invest into the meeting has a direct correlation with how much you will get out. The more research you do the more likely you’ll understand the type of connections they will have, how you can help them, etc. It’s also the first indication to the person with whom you meet whether or not you are taking the meeting seriously.
See the tool “10 Questions to Understand a Company” – whether your contact is a CEO, CFO, lawyer or banker – you can use these questions to understand what they do.
If you are meeting a service provider (lawyer, banker, etc.) most of them have extensive websites with explanation of services, biographies, etc.
Always look beyond the work experience to their participation in professional associations, college/grad-school alumni, etc. – this gives you another area for networking and indicates where they invest their time.
The reason you get more out of the networking meeting is because you leap past discovery into greater discussion about their background, issues about their business and how you can help one another. Both of you will walk away from the meeting with a greater satisfaction and you’ve just made yourself more memorable to that person.
Remember that this person will be likely networking/meeting with a dozen more people – so being memorable is important.
Good luck today!