Have you ever asked yourself if you are interesting? Is what you are saying interesting enough to others to spark a conversation? Do you find yourself at networking events struggling for words, feeling awkward and as if no one is listening to you? Have people just walked off and left you when you are talking? If any of these are the case, don’t worry you can find ways to appear more interesting and learn how to start conversations, it’s a skill anyone can learn.
Make it About Them First
One of the best and most engaging ways to appear interesting is to always let the other person speak first, once you’ve introduced yourself. Incorporate a question as part of your elevator pitch so that you can put the ball in their court. The fact is, the more people talk about themselves, the more interesting they’ll find you and the easiest it is, as all you have to do is listen. I’ve actually introduced myself and simply said, tell me about you and what you do, it sounds interesting… and left it at that … people always like to talk about their businesses.
Work on Your Elevator Pitch
One of the best things to do when you start talking to someone new is to give them your elevator pitch. This is your thirty second introduction that tells someone what you do, why you do it and who do it for in an interesting way. If you find you’re giving your elevator pitch and people aren’t asking questions about you afterwards, then you probably need to work more on your elevator pitch. To give you an example, here is the one I use.
Practice in Advance
Just like you should practice your elevator pitch by working up different ways to say what you do in different scenarios and in answer to different questions, also work on your general conversation. You want everything you say to appear off the cuff, as if it hasn’t been practiced and yet you want to be polished too. But, you don’t want it to be stiff and formal and this takes practice.
Learn Some Basic Conversation Starters
For example, you can remark on the location, the food, the weather or something topical in the news. These are usually easy things to bring up to break the ice and start things rolling. Usually once someone gets talking, they will keep talking. Even if all you say is, “Wow, that speaker was awesome” that is a start. You both can then talk more about what you thought was great about the speaker and what you got from it.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Instead of asking things that people can answer with a “yes” or “no” and then get out of the conversation, try asking more open-ended questions. Remember, the more you can get the other person to talk, the more interesting they’ll think you are and the less you actually have to say. Ask questions that require more thought than “yes” or “no” and soon you won’t be able to stop them from talking about themselves. One question I like to ask is, what challenges is your business facing that I might be able to help you with? What tips can you give me about networking here? Etc.… the idea as you can see is to start the other person talking.
Ask about Things You Have in Common
If you’re at the same meeting or networking event, you likely have a lot in common. You can ask them why they came to the event and what they hoped to get out of it. Then you can share your reason too. Anytime you can ask “why” about something you both have in common, you can spark a better conversation.
Know Current Events
Now, you don’t want to go all crazy talking about politics, but you do want to know about current events related to your industry and especially the industry that the event you’re attending serves. Remember to ask their thoughts and their opinions about things rather than just giving your own.
Study before the Event
If you know who is attending and who you may speak to, study up on the individuals so that you can ask questions related to the things they are doing. For example, if you read an article or a book the person you’re talking to wrote, be able tell them what you liked about it, or ask them to expand on their thoughts when writing it.
With a little practice, you can become a lot more interesting, more engaging and a better conversationalist. Remember to look people in the eye, and to be confident and friendly without staring. Smile and keep your body language open, keep asking “why” and you’ll find that everything becomes extremely easy.