I like to think that I’m a professional conversation starter. Whether it’s dance, rallying funding for an arts project or just connecting friends with like minded people – I like bringing people together. I’ve been spending some time thinking about what it means to build connection in person. How do you curate that first 5-7 min of conversation that could yield a potential friendship or business relationship? Why does it feel forced? Why isn’t it natural for everyone? How could you make it easier?
I’ve given a couple of workshops on the topic and try to focus on the following three ideas:
1. Decide your outcome before you get there – who are you looking to meet? Why are you there? What is success? The number of people you talk too? The number of free beers you drink. Decide the outcome and you’re more likely to feel like it was worth while. Going to a networking event out of obligation is always a recipe for disappointment.
2. Ask ‘good’ questions. Avoid ‘yes/no’ answers. Listen actively to what the other person is saying and respond to it with curiosity. A good response to someone’s statement is ‘That’s interesting, what do you think about ….’
3. Be able to identify the introvert versus the bore. Sometimes the most useful people in the room are shy. Be willing to investigate whether or not someone is an introvert or dull. You may have to put in a bit more work, but I promise if often yields a positive result.
I know it’s energetic work. There is no way for it not to be, but if you can give yourself some structure around what you want from these interactions if often makes it so much better…feeling. What are the bits you find the hardest? Let me know, I’m curious.