"A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Following on from our last topic on what not to ask, here is how to be more meaningful in conversations. When you attend a business networking event, you come across all types of people. There are those who are natural talkers and who have “the gift of the gab”, those who seem shy initially but open up once they get going, and those who barely say a word and look like they’d rather be anywhere else than at a networking event.
The whole point of a business networking event is to talk to people, meet new connections and create mutually beneficial working relationships. To do that, you absolutely must have a conversation.
Most people we train say the number 1 difficulty with networking is how to start a conversation (closely followed by how to leave!). So if you’re not someone who finds it easy to fill those awkward silences, having a few conversational tricks up your sleeve can certainly help you feel more comfortable and can keep the words flowing naturally.
Here are a few pointers to try at your next event:
· Be approachable. This is all about body language. If you’re standing in the corner with your arms crossed and not making eye contact with anyone, it’s unlikely anyone will approach you for a chat. Instead, keep your body language open, make eye contact and smile! You’ll soon have people lining up to meet you.
· Be interested. Start by sharing some information, and then ask a question. When the other person responds, keep the questions coming! People really love to talk about themselves given half a chance, so if you appear interested in what they have to say they’ll chatter away happily.
· Be interesting. Encouraging the other person to talk is great, but don’t let it be all about them. Agree with something they say and then tell a story about your own life that has to do with the topic.
· Keep it neutral. If you think the conversation is struggling to warm up, keep the topics neutral for a while. Talk about the weather (yes, somewhat boring but it can be an ice-breaker!), the food, the venue or the event.
Before long, you’ll find that people truly enjoy having a conversation with you. Eventually you can start to discuss your respective businesses, and if there’s an opportunity for them to become your customer, the process should happen easily and naturally.
Learning how to have meaningful conversations is fun and you can learn how to do that at our 1 Day Business Networking Skills Course in February.