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Networking Conversations: Stop Getting Stuck

Apr 22, 2019 | 9m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • Smart and positive ways of ending conversations without being awkward, rude, or saying that you're going to the toilet
  • Ask the right questions to professionally steer conversations to a deeper level
  • Easily sustain enjoyable conversations with the most boring person in the room


Sustaining Good Conversations

As I’ve mentioned in my first book, Meaningful Networks, before the conversation you need to like the person. You can practice liking them by complimenting them in your head and thinking positively about them. It could be as simple as complimenting their shoes, their sense of style, their demeanour, and just about anything. People tend to say critical and negative statements in their head, and this energy carries over into the conversation.

Be sure to prepare yourself intellectually, physically and emotionally. You can read more about this in my Power Read, Build Meaningful Networks. After we've done all the preparation, we start talking to people, but many of us get stuck after the first few minutes.

The truth is, sustaining a conversation is tougher than starting a conversation. A powerful way to keep a conversation going is to ask meaningful questions.

Ask Insightful Questions That Are Not Close-Ended

You need to pay attention to what others are saying and pick up on any cues they provide. Then you proceed to ask polite and insightful questions to get to know them better. You can choose from a myriad of questions. What are your priorities? Where was your recent vacation? What is your line of work? Where are you currently focused? What is your most exciting project? What kind of clients are you most interested in? This allows people to talk.

In my 20s I would practice by going online and getting questions. I looked up the Top 10 questions to ask investors, questions that help to build trust and I even looked up questions not to ask a woman which was honestly very enlightening! Don’t ask a woman for her age, whether she’s on her period, why she isn't smiling (probably because she's talking to you) and even children related questions like whether she has children or when she will have children.

It’s important that we research, read and learn from others to improve. We may not have been taught to network in school but now’s the time to learn to ask good questions. It will serve you well.

Asking questions keeps the conversation going but your conversation may still be on the surface. You can then take it to the next level.

Ask Personal Questions Professionally

To move to a deeper level of conversation, you can start asking others why they chose to do what they do. This would allow them to share more about their preferences, talents and other more personal thoughts. You could ask them when they got into their line of work and how their experience has been. If they are from overseas, you can ask them when and why they came to Singapore. Questions like these would move the conversation to a more personal direction while keeping it professional. Focus on allowing others to open up. If you state or ask facts, you will get short answers because they don’t know and don't trust you. They are afraid you will use facts against them. So, focus on more light-hearted and meaningful conversations.

In reality, some people may not be very forthcoming, in which case you need to help them to open up and share. How can you do that?

Open up and be Forthcoming First

This will encourage them to open up too. Share your thoughts and how you feel, then proceed to throw the ball back into the court to share. As I mentioned in my first book, life is like a mirror. When you open up, it’s likely that others will mirror you and open up too.

As you open up you may start to wonder how open you can be about your networking goals. Especially at a networking event, the purpose is to network and meet a variety of people. It’s okay if you need to end the conversation with the person you are talking to because you're looking to meet someone else. You can end the conversation politely, and move on to speak with the next person; a skill which I share more about in the following chapter.

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