7 Keys to a Flawless Conversation

How to start, continue and end a talk
July 22, 2014

The ability to hold a natural conversation is key to success in the professional world. Knowing when to initiate a discussion, keeping it interesting by asking effective questions, sharing your own stories and ending dialogue with kindness is an art.

So, are you a smooth talker? Learn how to create connections in conversations by following these seven steps:

1. Exude confidence. When you’re comfortable in your own skin, you make others comfortable. If you take the attitude that you bring something to the table, you will see that attitude reflected in others. Remember: Enthusiasm is infectious.

2. Show up with something to say. Always be on the lookout for material. Although it may sound contrived, I read The Wall Street Journal looking for interesting, timely information that I can share at my next get-together: a party, association meeting or business affair. Think about keeping a file that you can review before your next event.

3. Begin with a question. Besides showing interest in someone, one simple question can start an entire conversation. Asking something a bit unusual sets you apart from the crowd. Rather than, “What do you do?” ask, “How do you enjoy spending your weekends?”

4. Find common ground. The surest way to build rapport is to find something you have in common and build on that interest. Don’t shy away from topics that have nothing to do with business. They often create the perfect connection.

5. Focus on others. Putting your energy and interest in another person marks you as a great conversationalist. Englishman Raymond Mortimer once described the art of conversation in the United States as “not tennis, in which you return the other fellow’s serve, but golf, in which you go on hitting your own ball.” Keep that back and forth volley going with conversation.

6. Be inclusive. Excluding others in the group is a conversation killer. Make eye contact with everyone in the group, not just the person who asked you a direct question.

7. Close a conversation with class. When a conversation naturally lulls, take advantage and say, “It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I hope our paths cross again soon.” Before leaving, be sure to thank the hosts.

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