The best conversationalists are the ones who do most of their talking, by asking questions.
Before we begin, I want you to remember 3 Rules.
Now let’s introduce some context!
You’re at a social event or a business expo. And the reason you’re there is to meet people, create a network and build relationships that can be beneficial in the future.
There are a few people you want to meet, but you don’t know what to say or do. You’re thinking too much and it’s starting to affect your confidence. Or, you want to meet someone important, but the only way you can do that is by getting someone less important (within the important person’s circle) to introduce you.
Either way, you need to introduce yourself, establish a connection, communicate your need, end the conversation and then move on to the next person. The quicker you can do this, the more people you can meet, and more people are ready to meet you, later.
Establishing a Connection
E.g. “I couldn’t help notice the watch you were wearing. It really caught my eye, can you tell me where did you purchase it from? I know someone who’d like that design very much.” Sounds trivial, innocent and inquisitive. On the other hand, you’ve paid person ‘x’ a compliment without being too direct about it. You’ve appreciated his/her taste (which is something unique to his/her identity), causing him/her to immediately take interest in you. You’ve given him/her respect by taking the time to introduce your self. And you’ve clearly told them why you are there, and what do you want. (Refer to rule 1 & 2 mentioned at the top).
“Does it always have to be a compliment?”
Not really. The whole point of this is to create rapport. You can’t do that without showcasing a genuine interest for the other person. You can look them up online, find common interests, talk about something remarkable you heard about them, talk about a common friend. Make small talk, but don’t lose focus – The IDEA IS TO SHOWCASE (PERSONAL) INTEREST!
“It almost sounds like manipulation. Why can’t I just get straight to the point?”
It really is not. You’re looking at person ‘x’ more than as a valuable link in your network. You’re taking the time to know him/her, by striking up a personal and friendly conversation. Now, there is nothing wrong in telling person ‘x’ you’re there to ‘connect’ or whatever the real reason is. In fact plenty of people would choose to go that route. But that would leave no room for any kind of personal conversation, and could very well lead to an early ‘strike-out’.
By doing this, you’re again displaying your interest and giving respect by being patient. As ‘x’ slowly begins to open up, don’t just stare at him/her. Give ‘x’ verbal and non verbal affirmations. An occasional nod, a statement of expression (“Really? You don’t say! That’s amazing.”), a smile, then finally, a follow-up question. And that’s how you lead the conversation to where you want it to go. Gradually, you’ll see person ‘x’ beginning to loosen up, smile at you, as they continue to talk and then start asking you questions (showing interest towards you). When this starts happening you can be sure that you’ve established some form of rapport, and have laid down the roots of trust which can help you build a ‘relationship’.
Communicating Your Need
Ending the Conversation
Maintain eye-contact and composure, smile, and keep the conversation moving.
“Well, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. It’s been a pleasure meeting you.”
Extend your hand again and shake theirs (signalling you’re about to leave) And then ask…
“How about we get together some time next week? Let’s say Wednesday, 12 PM at your office?”
Since you’re leading the conversation, you should be the one to suggest a definite time and place and then wait for a response. This presents the opportunity to not only exchange contact information, but also allow the other person to reflect upon the conversation they had with you. Which means the initial ‘NO’ or ‘I NEED TO THINK ABOUT IT’ can turn into a ‘YES’.
Now, in case of a YES, you still go ahead with the same plan, thereby allowing you to build on the rapport established in the 5-minute conversation, at a later date. Except now both of you know each other. Which means both of you are open to the possibility of spending more time with each other.
To conclude, I’m going to ask you to think about your best friend, spouse, partner, any person who holds or has held some form of relevance in your life. Now ask yourself, what was it like when you met that person for the first time? What is it that both of you talked about or what caused the both of you to get closer to each other in first place? Chances are, both of you probably went through every stage mentioned above, but didn’t do it with the (conscious) intent of getting closer to each other. Building rapport is doing and saying exactly those things, except with (conscious) intent!
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Originally published at LinkedIn