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.
- People like to talk about themselves, just as much as they are protective about themselves. A person chooses between the two depending on how comfortable he/she feels in the moment.
- Giving respect- real respect -is a reflection of your individual identity. People pick up on it and respond to it, in accordance.
- Only 7 percent of communication is verbal. The remaining 93 percent is non-verbal; body language is 55%, tone of your voice is 38%.
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.
THE FIRST 3 MINUTES
- The Walk: Back straight, arms and shoulders relaxed, smile and walk towards, let’s call him/her person ‘x’, at a steady pace. Make sure they see you coming, so that they are mentally prepared to receive you (someone new).
- “Hello, My Name is..” Look them in the eye as you introduce your self (name, place, organization, etc.) extend you’re hand to shake theirs’. Give them an open smile – don’t be afraid to flash a little bit of your teeth. Sub-consciously you’re communicating ‘you got nothing to hide’. And yes, they do pick up on it. This instantly causes them to relax and helps you establish trust before even starting the conversation.
- Their Response: 99.9% of the time they are going to reciprocate your actions and respond to your introduction. In the unlikely event that they don’t – encourage them for a response. Slightly lean in (to show interest) and with the same smile ask them politely, “Sorry, I didn’t get your name” or “your name is”. This is you, verbally and non-verbally, assuring them that you’re interested in getting to know them.
Establishing a Connection
- What do you want: You are there to network. You’re talking to person ‘x’ because you perceive some sort of value in knowing that person. Isn’t it fair that person ‘x’ would want the same from you? Which is why, after the introduction and the response, you immediately turn the conversation and MAKE IT ABOUT ‘PERSON X’ (make it about them).
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’.
- Handling The Response: Keeping Rule 1 in mind, how ‘x’ responds next will help determine how comfortable he/she feels with you, at that moment. All you have to do is wait for ‘x’ to respond; i.e LISTEN!
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’.
THE 4’TH MINUTE & 30 SECONDS
Communicating Your Need
- Less is More: Now that you’ve established rapport, it’s time to talk about what you really want. Again the idea is to present the matter in the most ‘simplest way’ possible. As a lead in, to what you were talking about without having to go on and on about it. Be clear and concise in your thoughts and your words. (E.g. “Where do you work? Oh! Do you know ‘y’ and ‘z’?”)
- Mirroring You: You will find ‘x’ patiently listening to you, with attention and focus. Mirroring the same level of attention and respect you afforded him/her at the beginning of the conversation. (E.g. Leaning in, maintain eye contact, taking time to ask you questions are all signs of respect and interest.)
- Course of Action: If ‘x’ starts asking you questions then more likely, he/she is thinking about helping you with your cause. This goes without saying, but your answers should hint at the preferred course of action. Silently, guiding the person towards what you want. (You should always be the one leading the conversation to where you want it to go.)
THE LAST 30 SECONDS
Ending the Conversation
- The Final Word: ‘YES!’, ‘NO’ or ‘I NEED TO THINK ABOUT IT’. It all comes down to these three choices. But regardless of what ‘x’ tells you, you can choose to have the final word! In other words, how the two of you are going to move forward.
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!
Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be of value, then go ahead and ‘share’ it within your network. If you like to personally get in touch with me then email me at [email protected]. To keep up with my posts and stay connected, follow me at
Originally published at LinkedIn