This is the season for seminars and conferences. These are eight tips for starting and continuing a conversation at these events. Here is a starter tip, wear your name badge as comfortably as possible over your right side. This gives others the opportunity to get a quick glimpse as they employ their tactics to remember and recall your name. There is nothing more uncomfortable than to have to look at a name badge that is hanging on a lanyard below the chest.
Identify a conversation trigger. Find something that you can comment on such as something they are wearing – a gentleman wearing a remarkable tie or pin, or a woman wearing an eye catching color or unique piece of jewelry. Chances are they are not wearing these things by chance. They are more than likely offering you a conversation starter. Conversely you can wear or carry something unusual to give others a reason to approach you, to remember you and to offer a hint about your interests.
Ask for an introduction. Ask the host to refresh your memory about the person across the room who looks familiar but whose name you can’t seem to remember.
Be interested in them. Eventually one of you will ask “Where are you from?” Ask what their hometown is best known for. When you’re asked give an interesting, unique fact or witty reflection to hook your conversation partner into a conversation. Be prepared to ask questions that inspire them to share more about who they are, what their interests are, what inspired their interests, how they spend their time, what is important to them, their experiences and perspective on current rends and what energizes them.
Expound on the question, “What do you do?” A title which has meaning only to those you work with can end a conversation. Offer interesting, positive information about what you do. Let your conversation partner know who you help and how. Let them know how you make a difference for your clients, colleagues or the company you work for. Let them know how you work with others, who you collaborate with and how you improve the personal or professional life of others.
Keep the conversation positive. Reading about the news of the day is still a good idea if the news is positive. Not many people enjoy participating in negative conversations with people they don’t know well. Travel, recreation, innovation, their perspective on current events if you are willing to take a non-judgmental position or ideas that stem from the latest non-fiction book are safer topics.
Listening with interest will help to resuscitate a dying conversation. Inevitably there will come a moment when the topic has seemed to run its course, or perhaps your conversation partner has made a comment that seems to divert the conversation. What may seem like a digression from the conversation you thought you were having may actually be a clue to what your conversation partner would really enjoy discussing. Maintain a posture that encourages them to elaborate. If the conversation has truly stalled you can also pick up on a comment that was made earlier in the conversation to expand on it.
You don’t need to find common ground immediately. Conversation may seem easier when two people have something in common, but you may not find common ground instantly. Sure our similarities make us feel more comfortable, but it is our differences that make us more interesting. They are more likely to be the things that we like to talk about and share. The trick is to be interested in learning about them, what they want to share, and what is important to them. Your communication to them should be, “That sounds interesting. Tell me more!” Everyone enjoys talking about the things they are most interested in, their experiences and their perspective. You can get them to share by making “tell me more” statements and asking “how does that work” questions.
Be a modern day Renaissance man or woman. The broader your experiences or knowledge and the more enthusiastically you share, the longer you can keep others interested and engaged in a conversation with you. They’ll remember you for your expansive interests and energy. Its easy to expand your knowledge through video, audio and print. There are enough sources of information to get you around the world, introduced to the most fascinating people, learn new perspectives and explore the most talked about industries, recreational activities, events, cultural interests and trends. You can expand your knowledge without leaving your home if necessary.
Make having a conversation with you easy, not by necessarily doing all of the talking, but by sharing enough information and asking the right questions to allow them to participate with enthusiasm and feel comfortable. It is important to developing rapport and connection.
Learn more about The Art of Connection in the online course The Power of Connection.