The reason that some of us dread the thought of having to carry on a conversation with people we don’t know is because it can be hard to find something to talk about. In the previous parts of the Successful Networking Tips series we handled goal setting and how to approach others. In this article we will be looking at the next step – how to keep the conversation going and make a good impression.
So, how do you maintain a conversation and build a connection at a networking or other event with someone you don’t know at all?
Part of your job as a conversation starter is to get the other person to talk. Asking questions is the simplest way of engaging the person in front of you and expressing your interest.
Make sure to ask open ended questions – that means questions that start with the 5 ‘w’: who, what, where, when and why. This way you can be sure to get at least more than a ‘yes; or ‘no’ as an answer.
People generally like to talk about themselves – especially about the things they are passionate. This type of conversation relaxes the mood and makes them feel better – this feeling will in turn be associated with you.
Asking questions is also a good way of seeing if the people in front of you are confronted with some specific type of challenges. If you can do something to help with the problems they are facing, then offer up your support. People will like you better and they will feel compelled to return the favor some other way.
This isn’t an interrogation or a market stall – people will avoid you if they feel you are trying to sell them something. How many times have you cut the conversation short when you saw that the person that had rung the bell was a door to door salesman? If you don’t want that image to follow you around the networking event, then make it a point to have genuine conversations that may –or may not – lead to potential business at a later date.
Even the most scintillating conversation occasionally hits a snag – which is why you need to be prepared and have a topic (or five) of conversation ready. It’s a great way of ending the silence before it gets to be uncomfortable.
An easy way to reboot the conversation is by asking how the person sitting in front of you came into his current line of work. Otherwise, you can go the tried and tested route of popular culture news. That is why it pays to stay informed and at least do a quick scan of the day’s events, before heading out to the networking event.
When you’re meeting new people, one of your main goals is to be memorable, and the best way to do this is through good storytelling. Most networking talk is forgettable because it tends to be generic. People tend to share little and stick close to work related topics.
A good story will create an emotional connection to your listeners – they will smile or reminisce together with you. Human memory works in a funny way – while your words may be forgotten, how you make people feel will be remembered.
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