Thursday, October 31, 2013

6 Tips for Starting a Great Conversation at Business Events

After spending a great weekend in Las Vegas for the Author 101 Event, I participated in and observed a lot of conversations. I love networking and networking at a business event is a skill that is developed with practice.

I noticed some authors and speakers need a little improvement on how to start and have a great conversation at a networking event. It is very important that you learn how to work the room at networking events to get the most bang for your buck. I came up with 6 Critical tips for making the best out of your conversations with the other attendees.

Smile and be Genuine 

A warm welcoming smile is a great way to brake the ice. You want to try to initiate the conversation so that you can control the direction and flow. You should be friendly and professional. I witnessed a very awkward conversation, the person initiating the first question said with a very stern look, "Why are you here?" Gosh, talk about getting straight to the point!  Although he was not trying to be rude his question put a negative awkward tone on the whole conversation going forward. I suggest that you smile and try to be relaxed with your questions. 
Make Yourself Rememberable
Stories are great way to create a lasting first impression. Share something short and interesting about yourself without sounding like a direct sales pitch. Why did you start your business? What are your passions? Tie those questions into your conversation. Questions are great for opening a conversation but let the conversation flow in both directions. Listen to the person you are talking to instead of thinking about what you want to say next.  If you are handing out a business card (one preferably with your picture) this will help people connect the dots with a face even if they don't remember your name. 

Positive Body Language
You should walk around confidently with your head held high. This will show people that you are approachable and open to conversation. Try to enjoy the moment and relax. 
Also take notice on how close you stand to somebody when engaging in conversation. 
The distance between you and the person you are speaking to is very important, you want to be close enough so that they can hear you but not so close it becomes uncomfortable. Always keep a personal bubble when engaging in conversation. It is hard to give an exact distance because of height differences and how noisy the room is but your distance is something you should be aware of. Being super close makes the conversation uncomfortable. If you see the person your talking to shifting body weight and leaning back take a step back and respect their space. 

Understand You Will Make Mistakes
Don't put to much pressure on yourself we are all human. You may trip over your words or forget a name. Human interaction is fun but of course you can not plan every steps so roll with your mistakes and move on. 

Stay Focused 
The majority of your conversations should be short and to the point. If you find somebody that you can connect with in the future, exchange cards and establish how you will contact them after the event is over. You are there to meet as many people as possible so never try to get in a super detailed conversation that takes up a lot of time. It's very important you don't over stay your welcome and "talk a hole" in somebodies head. Know when it is time to move on to the next contact. Pay attention to your surroundings,  if you see somebody waiting to talk to the same person you are talking to don't keep them waiting in the background while you ramble on and on. 
Be yourself!
You want to attract people to you that you can have a successful business relationship with so it is imperative that you be yourself. If nobody ever laughs at your jokes don't make any jokes. Just because you read that a joke s a great way to break the ice it may not be the best way for you to break the ice. Be genuinely true to who you are to get the best results out of a networking event.

Have you attended any  business networking events? What are some tips you use for starting a great conversation? 


byron wolt said...

As always wonderful & actionable advice. i would add one point though. if you want to get a conversation going with a stranger, ask questions that allow them to talk about themselves, people LOVE talking about themselves.

byron wolt said...

As always wonderful & actionable advice Tom. in addition to your 6 great points, i have always found that if you want to start a conversation with a stranger, ask them something that allows them to talk about themselves or their business. People LOVE to talk about themselves!

Thanks for the tips.

Mira Dessy said...

Great tips. You were an amazing speaker at Author101. So glad I got to go and really thrilled to have attended your session.

Mira Dessy said...

Great tips, thanks for the feedback. So great to hear you present at Author101, tons of great information.

Tom Antion said...

You're absolutely right Byron. People do love to talk about themselves and the better listener you are the better conversationalist they think you are :)

Tom Antion said...

Thanks for the kind words Mira

Ralph Zuranski said...

You are the master of working a room. I have witnessed your unique skills at so many of the conferences and seminars where I was taking photos or running the speaker powerpoints.

Stephen Nellas said...

great advice and tips on engaging with the audience. Letting you know that I mentioned you in my facebook page

I believe your advice can help my audience as well.

Thanks a lot!