Engaging in conversation can be somewhat of a sport: listening to others ideas, collaborating, discussing deep subjects. It is something I love to do and find it to be essential to my wellbeing and the health of my mental state. I have learned to enjoy networking and find the new ideas and meeting new people fascinating. During various conversations I learn new things about the other person as well as myself with each and every encounter.
As an entrepreneur and with any social career where you find yourself interacting with others, conversations are bound to happen. Some discussions can lead to career advancement, building relationships within your business community, or just creating a valuable connection or future friendship. Therefore, it is something that cannot be ignored in most instances.
Conversing doesn’t always come easy, but I have found that applying the following tips in my conversations can help get the ball rolling:
1. When introducing yourself, use both your first and last names
When you meet someone for the first time, use both your first and last name. I know there are tendencies to use first names only if the other person does, but sometimes your last name can be a conversation starter or help others recognize what they have heard about you and your business from others. If this is all positive conversation, this will add instant credibility to your conversation. I like to say what company I am with as well. Sometimes others may have heard of your company only, so it’s a great way to put a face with the name.
2. Mirror body language
If the person you are talking to is standing with their arms crossed, cross your arms. Exchange a few sentences and then uncross your arms, see if they do the same. Subconsciously we follow each other’s body language and maybe you can encourage them to open up. If not, offer a pleasant ‘nice to meet you’ and move on to the next person or group. If they don’t open up maybe someone forced them to attend this event and they are just not in the mood to share.
3. Focus on others first
I find it fun to play a little game and watch the conversation. I ask the person I am speaking to what they do for a living, wait for the answer and see if they ask me. If not, I move on to the next subject and ask another question. I am waiting to see if and when they will ask about what I do, about my family, or something to engage the conversation both ways.
4. If you listen, they will think you are smart
The person conceived as the smartest person in the room is the one that is the best at listening, weighing the conversation, and then speaking. Be a great listener and you will project the interest that others are seeking to have fulfilled.
5. Put away the cell phone
This shouldn’t have to be said but a cell phone in your hand that you check often lets the other person know that they fall second to whoever or whatever is on your phone. Turn off the ringer, put it in your purse or pocket, and have a real conversation that you are engaged in with the person standing right in front of you.
6. Don’t interrupt with ideas
I know you may have that great idea that just came to your brain that has to do with what the other person is talking about and if you don’t blurt it out it might disappear. Hold that thought! Literally. Give the person speaking the opportunity to finish their thought before you give them that really awesome idea that will save the world.
7. Know when to dig deeper
Sometimes a person needs to talk things out, so know how to ask questions that keep them talking. Make sure the conversation stays positive and keep asking those questions that can’t be answered with Yes or No. Encourage them to talk through the issue and keep your eyes open for what is really being said. Remove the emotions. This will lead to more productive outcomes for everyone involved.
8. Know when to stop digging
I’m not talking spouses or family members here. We all know how to push buttons of those that are closest to us, but for casual conversation if the content becomes negative, change the subject. If the conversation continues to be negative, politely excuse yourself and find someone else to engage. We all know that person that loves to have toxic conversation all the time!
9. Focus on the person you’re in conversation with
No eye darting, nodding to others, etc. There is no better way of making someone feel insignificant than you looking for your next target for conversation while talking to them.
10. Look into their eyes
When being really engaged with someone, look into their eyes or at least at their face when speaking with them. I know this is a no-brainer, but sometimes it is hard to do. Make sure you are not looking at body parts that make the other person uncomfortable.
11. Open yourself up to others
When networking, don’t stand in the corner with your arms crossed and a scowl on your face. Smile, drop your arms to your side, and stand flat on your feet. This is a power position and an invitation for others to approach you. You never know who your next client is going to be!
Next time you are out networking use these tips and you will converse like a pro!
Tracy Fuller, President of Event Heroes, believes in empowering other event and meeting planners to help make the industry a better place. Working together to learn from one another and killing others with kindness are two principles she lives by. When she’s not busy pulling off events that wow or training the next Event Hero, Tracy enjoys sipping wine with friends, painting in her art studio, and attending other great events in her city.