Inspired by a reader question, The Public Speaker describes the top 5 tips for making conversation.
Reader Mathew Ho Cheuk Kei left me a voicemail asking: "What are your 5 best tips for making conversation?"
Recently I forced myself to attend a networking event. It was an event where I knew absolutely no one and I had very little in common with the people attending. You may be surprised to learn that attending an event like this and, particularly, making conversation with strangers is extremely challenging for me. In fact, I found myself making excuses just before the event about why I shouldn't go - and at one point, I actually found myself in the lobby getting ready to bail. But at that moment, I reminded myself, "I can do this." After all, I have the knowledge to make good conversations, the only thing I needed was the courage to go in and make it happen. I needed confidence. >
Tip #1: Break the Ice
Smile, be open, and ask a question to break the ice. I noticed one guy at the event asking, "Who are you here to support?" as an icebreaker and I noticed another person saying, "Is this your first time to a SmartCEO event?" Before attending an event, I save a set of icebreaker questions on my iPhone (I have a list for personal and a list for professional situations). I review the list in the parking lot before I go in so that they're fresh in my mind before I meet anyone.
When you are the one initiating the conversation, it makes it easier for the other person to respond. At this particular event, I found myself looking for people who were sponsors of the event (you could see this on their name tags) and asking them if this is the first time they've sponsored a SmartCEO event. This led to a lot of interesting conversations and contacts.
Tip #2: Share Your Values and Beliefs Though Stories
Share something about yourself, without sounding like a sales pitch. Although asking a question or even a few questions is a good way to start the conversation, you need to also share information about yourself to make this into a dialogue. By sharing stories about yourself, you are revealing your personal values and beliefs and this helps your conversation partner to feel more connected to you. Conversations are about questions and stories—aim for a 50/50 mix.