Whether you are doing virtual networking, hybrid networking or face to face networking, 121s are really important.

So, the idea of a 121 is as it says on the tin, a one-on-one meeting that can be done in many different ways – from a coffee in person, over Zoom, or even on a walk in the park, I’ve even had one in the Shard with an amazing view in the background! It doesn’t matter where you host your meeting, it’s all about getting to know more about one another as networking is all based on trust and rapport.

If you are members of a hybrid networking group or an online networking group then the online 121’s are often the best option, but you can jazz it up and make it feel like a face to face 121 with options like bringing a “coffee shop coffee” to the virtual room, or perhaps having it “over lunch” in your own offices.

If you attend a regular face to face meeting grab your diary to book something in before departing, or better still you may want to arrange to meet before or after the event, as you are already there.

What should a good 121 look like?

Now onto the important part – how to make sure your 121’s are great for both people in the room!

A good 121 is around about 45 minutes to an hour, with each of you getting equal opportunities to speak about your past, yourself, and your business.
One of the biggest no-no’s when it comes to 121’s is when people talk a lot about themselves but don’t ask the other person questions to see how they can help them, too.

A few great starter questions to ask at a 121:

Networking, and particularly a business 121, are very much a 2-way conversation, so you may want to think about some leading questions.

1. What was your previous job and how did you get to doing what they are doing now?

2. What inspired you to do what you do now/start a business?

With these history-based questions, you can get to know where they have come from and what brought them to where they are. I love these sorts of questions as it helps me to get to know their inspirations as well as their experiences.
Now you know a bit about their history, you can start to delve deeper into their business and services.

You may belong to a networking group that operates a 1 profession rule, however the 121 setting is a great opportunity to hear all about the full range of services or products that they provide and the overall view of the business.

Starter business focused questions for your 121:

1. What services do you provide to clients?
2. How long have you been going for?
3. Do you have employees?

There are so many questions that you can bring to the table to gain a better perspective of the business. We are meeting to ultimately do business – as otherwise it would just be, as I like to call it “a business date!” So, you’ll want to get to the nitty gritty and see how you can help them get more business.

Deeper questions to ask at your 121 about their business:

1. Who are the different clients you work with?
2. What are the current clients you work with? IE brands, or industries
3. What are the different services you provide to those industries/clients?
4. What clients are you ideally looking for? Networking is ultimately about sales, and this question helps you get a more insightful answer to help you relay the information later on to other people when you are out and about with other networking.
5. What would you like more of? For example: perhaps a service that is particularly profitable, or a new service that they’d like to showcase.

Why should you go past the business questions in a 121?

Getting to know them, personally, builds a stronger relationship – this is where the real magic happens. I often find the people that do 121’s with their connections that ask questions over and above the “business” questions are the ones that get the most from their networking.

When you ask about the personal life of the people you are networking with, and they do the same with you, they will create both a business relationship and potentially a friendship. This is also the place where you can find out if you have synergistic personalities or similar hobbies!

Deeper questions to ask in a 121:

1. What is your home life like – are you married, with a partner, living independently?
2. Do you have any children?
3. Do you have any pets?
4. What are your hobbies?

Once you have gone through the other person, then you can switch it up and reverse the roles! Always try to keep notes, as it can be tricky to remember all the things you had discussed, and this can help when you get together in other networking events or at your next meeting.

As a final note – if you have promised to introduce possible questions, you should do it within a week as it shows that you are proactive & will build that trust and rapport.