Friday, November 23, 2007

CC Project 5 - Your Body Speaks - How to start/sustain conversations with strangers?

CC Project - 5: Your Body Speaks
April 27, 2007

Imagine that you are going to a social gathering on a Friday night. You see a number of people in the hall. All of them are well dressed and busy talking with each other. The hall is full of noise. You don’t see any familiar faces in the party. What would you do? How do you start your conversation with strangers? What do you talk about? Today, I am going to give you 5 tips about starting and sustaining conversation with others.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)

Tip #1 - A compliment is always a great opener

I met one of the District 4 toastmasters during an officers training. I have seen her once participating in the District 4 humor contest & winning the first place. I greeted her and said, “Hello Jane… I’ve seen your humor play during the District 4 humor contest. I enjoyed it very much”. She was very happy that I remembered her play. We conversed for a while regarding the various other plays that happened in the District 4 humor contest.

Knowing about the person is not a must to start a conversation. You can initiate a conversation by complimenting — about a tie, a pair of shoes, or a haircut — people will usually respond positively. Insincerity is easily detected, so make sure you mean it.

Tip #2 - Smile and make eye contact

This is the simplest of all techniques to start a conversation. When you make a friendly smile you let others know that you are approachable. Establishing an eye contact is important to capture other’s attention.

This tactic would work out when the other person is also alone. You should make an eye contact and say “hi” with a friendly smile. I’m sure the opponent would also reciprocate that. It is a nice way of starting a conversation.

Tip #3 - Prepare for the meeting

If you know beforehand about the kind of people you're going to meet, do a bit of research. Knowing a little about whom you're talking to and what their interests are makes it much easier to begin a conversation.

For example, if you are going to attend a Web Technologies Conference – know about the top few players in the market, know about the different web technologies, trends etc., This would help in starting a conversation.

Tip #4 - Stay on top of current events & news

This is one of the easiest ways to start and continue a conversation. If someone asks you “Hey… do you know that Google acquired a online video company, “You tube”?” If you were keeping track of the current events, your response would be “Yeah. I heard that they paid a huge sum of $1.65 billion”. If you were not keeping track of the current events, your response would be “Is it so…? I didn’t know about that”.

The opponent may soon loose interest in conversing with you if you do not have any areas of common interest. Alternatively, if you are staying on top of current events & news, you can continue the conversation by talking about acquisitions, Google’s competition etc.,

Tip #5 - Let others talk

Sometimes, in a nervous burst of energy, we find ourselves talking too much. But one of the things you should learn as a socializer is not to be afraid of pauses, especially when you're talking to someone you don't know. Give them a chance to respond.

Summary

To recap the tips,

A compliment is always a great opener
Smile and make eye contact
Stay on top of current events & news
Prepare for the meeting
Let others talk

The next time you go to a social gathering,

- You don’t have to look for familiar faces,
- You don’t have to be nervous about starting a conversation,
- You don’t have to stress yourself to continue a conversation.

Use these simple tips. You would soon build a strong network.

Also read: Competent Communicator Speeches (Projects 1 - 10)
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