If you've read our previous article about how to break the ice at a business networking event, you have a good idea of how to start a conversation with someone (if not, you can read it here.) But starting a conversation is, fittingly, only the beginning. How do you keep the conversation going and get someone to talk more openly?
In this article, you’ll learn four tactics you can use to keep the conversation alive at a business networking event:
Questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" are sure-fire conversation killers. So make sure the questions that you ask someone take some thought to answer. Open-ended questions offer the chance to get a much richer answer. Some examples of open-ended questions are ones that start with "how is...," "why is...," or "what do you think about..." These questions can be a lifesaver when conversations begin to stall because they encourage people to talk.
One of the best ways to forge a strong connection with someone is by letting your guard down and being vulnerable with them. Humans are social animals, and we have an in-born desire to help each other out. If you ask someone about something you’re struggling with professionally, they’ll most likely be eager to help you out by talking about their perspective, offering advice, or pointing you in the right direction. Business networking meetings are a great place to learn from people who are more experienced about a particular side of the business than you are, so this is your chance to take advantage of that opportunity and gain some business insights you didn't have before.
One of the biggest conversation killers is our own fear of embarrassing ourselves. It's not that we can't think of anything to say; it's just that we're worried the other person won't enjoy the opinion or subject we have in mind. But more often than not, that fear is unwarranted. After all, everybody has random thoughts, unconventional opinions, and unique subjects they’re interested in. And they worry just as much as you do about seeming odd. So if a conversation is stalling out, try saying whatever is on your mind at the moment. This conversational technique, commonly called “blurting,” can inject some much-needed life back into an otherwise dying conversation. You’ll find that people aren’t as judgemental as you fear they are.
Let's face it - silence is uncomfortable. Most people don't like long pauses in conversation. When that happens; they'll usually try to fill that silence by finding something to say. You can use this to your advantage when you’re talking with someone and the conversation is stalling. Instead of leaving the conversation, hang in there for a moment and let the silence linger for a couple of beats. Eventually, they will say something to start the conversation up again.
This tactic is especially useful when speaking with someone who prefers to take their time to think about what they want to say next. For them, the pause gives them time to think about their response or come up with a question to ask you.
Now that you know how to keep the conversation alive, the best place to show off your new skills is at a business networking event. Join the conversation at one of 4BR’s local networking groups near you today!