By Janet Adetu
Relationship building starts from confident conversations, which ultimately is the stepping stone to cultivating rapport. During my trainings I always ask participants to answer as truthfully as they can whether they are completely comfortable walking into a room full of strangers during a formal networking gathering or a social event. To my surprise majority of the class have slight challenges when they have to exert themselves among strangers.
Could this be due to the lack of confidence or low self-esteem? Could it be because they know what to say but not how to say it, or generally because they just flow better in familiar territory.
The art of generating a conversation involves putting your best foot forward; alleviating all fears and anxiety to become so much more self-aware and align this self-image with individual personal and professional goal.
I have here few steps you can use to help you deliver smoother confident conversations. It is important to embrace every opportunity to meet new people and master the art of conversation that will give you that competitive advantage.
1.The brand “You”
Your brand is the perception you leave on the minds of those that meet you. You will need to package your brand in a way that communicates your assets and the value you bring; your brand packaging should sell you, it speaks to who you are, what you do and what you can do for others. Every time you are in a room full of strangers this is your opportunity to use your skills. Prepare a one liner that introduces who you are and your unique offering. Call this your verbal business card; you will need it to attract people to listen to you not turn them away.
2. Your Power Presence
You will always draw attention to yourself positively when you show an attitude of friendliness and openness. That indicates you are there to mix and mingle, you are also open to opportunities that may come your way. Your power presence can make or break a connection. The interesting thing is that they are the small details that make the big impact. It starts from the moment you walk into a room connecting with a smile. Watch where your eyes are ensuring you are directly looking at the people you are smiling at. An immediate extension of your hand for a handshake enhances your power play, coupled with a swift introduction of yourself.
3. Baby Steps
Start your conversation with baby steps, do not just jump right in there. Cultivate the attitude of small talk first. Even when you have an idea as to what to say , assess your environment and recognize your location, begin to share common interest to build a smooth rapport. Be careful to choose topics that are not controversial, but are comfortable to talk about. Try to avoid sensitive topics that are too personal for response.
- 4. Break the Ice
It is easy to walk around a room and do nothing but hold a glass or feel comfortable staying against one corner of the room literally becoming part of the wallpaper. It is also easy not mixing, mingling or chatting with anyone; all you do is wait for someone else to come to you for a conversation.
Once you have identified someone to talk to, break the ice after your introduction, this you can you do looking for free information around you. Compliment the venue the occasion or the person you are talking to. Recognize that you are not in a gossip mode; just recognize something good about where you are. You may decide to talk about yourself by saying “This is my first time, is it yours?
5. Plunge Forward
Conversations are free flown words that require responses or merely just listening. Once you have identified who you are talking to and you may have exchanged a few compliments, why not strategically get involved further. You may decide to ask deeper questions to get to know the person better. If the person you are talking to finds what you are saying interesting, the will begin to trust you and comfortably engage in rapport. At this point pay attention and listen well. Indicate that you are listening with few nods and verbal responses. Contribute to the conversation by saying a few things about yourself too.
6. Wrap up/ Follow up
At this point you may have spent between 5-20 minutes cultivating rapport. If you spend longer then maybe you are sitting at the same table, otherwise try to mingle with as many people as you can in one event. If your topics were interesting, you would have learnt something new yourself. Make an effort to remember names, especially after receiving a business card. Make an effort to close your conversation by offering an invitation, expressing the desire to use their services or by simply showing signs of appreciation for your connection. A good conversationalist may if the need arises send a follow up email acknowledging the day and reinforcing services offered.
Good luck on you next opportunity to converse.