What makes someone an incredible conversationalist?

We all know the type. They breeze into the room and brighten the conversation. They’re confident. They don’t seem like they’ve ever had an awkward moment.

Networking and making good conversation aren’t talents. They’re a practiced art and the basics are simple. Here’s how to keep a conversation going.

1. Just listen

Here is everyone’s favourite conversation topic, guaranteed: themselves. You’ve heard this before and I’ve seen it proven time and again how comfortable people become when the conversation turns to them. Here’s a tip to get the chatting started: toss out the time-worn “what do you do?” and try instead “What’s keeping you busy nowadays?” The conventional approach makes people recite prepared spiels and lose interest. This new approach broadens the topic to life outside of work.

Once they start talking, ask curious questions that keep the conversation going. “Tell me more about (this topic)” is a good follow-up. An even better approach is asking about a specific detail from what they just said. You don’t need to be an expert to ask good questions.

2. Get advice

Here’s Ben Franklin’s networking power tip: ask for advice. Helping you out makes people like you more. Counter intuitive, but true. People enjoy feeling like experts and gain pleasure from helping you out. You’ll learn something and your conversation partner will feel trusted which helps elevate the conversation above the realm of generic small talk.

3. Conversation is better when it’s not generic

We would all be happier if we don’t hear a prepared spiel again. Be genuine. People easily recognize and appreciate it when someone tosses aside the pre-packaged responses. Avoid controversial topics but be brave about sharing your opinion. The social butterflies at mingling events definitely aren’t reciting a spiel they practiced at home.

4. Use a salad bar pitch

Here’s an especially important case when pre-packaged spiels won’t cut it. Toss aside the concept of the elevator pitch and think of it instead as your salad bar pitch. Have some prepared points and choose different points to emphasize depending on your audience. For example, a friend who was starting a business gave her salad bar pitch to a school board trustee and focused on her educational services. She then asked for and received advice on delivering workshops in high school, a topic the trustee was familiar with. That’s networking success.

5. Brilliant body language

The best conversationalists don’t focus on what they say – they focus on making their conversation partners feel good. Never underestimate the effects of positive body language. Find something to smile about and smile wide. Nod gently when you’re listening and keep eye contact for as long as appropriate.

How to keep a conversation going well? Here’s the key to networking success in a nutshell: Be interested. Focus less on being interesting. Make your conversation partner feel good and you’ll be the social star of the night.

Want more advice from our experts? Check out how Eventsage can help make your event exceptional. Eventsage – event planning made easy!

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Kimberly Rohachuk

Kimberly Rohachuk

Over my career I've had the honor of working on some major events, including the World AIDS Conference in Vancouver, G8 Foreign Ministers meeting, and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics bid delegation to Prague. I’ve also worked with a number of corporate clients all over the world delivering hundreds of events for groups ranging from 50 to 1,500 people.

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