How do you feel about starting a conversation with a stranger? Do you relish the chance to learn about someone new, or do you feel awkward, unsure what to say? If you dread networking or chatting at parties, consider building a conversation tool kit to help you feel more at ease and keep the conversation interesting and enjoyable for you both.
Develop open-ended questions ahead of time to enrich the conversation beyond the usual exchange about occupations. For example, you could ask, “What are you looking forward to these days?” This question is flexible and allows your discussion partner to decide whether they want to keep it professional or open up about an exciting experience that is more personal.
Focus on asking follow-up questions based on what the person shares. It’s easy to spend more time trying to figure out what you can say next instead of paying attention, but people generally enjoy talking when they are with an attentive listener.
Once the conversation gets going, have more questions on hand – literally. You can use the 5-finger introduction described below to help you think of and remember other interesting questions. These can be used informally in casual conversation or together as an engaging group introduction exercise:
- Thumbs up – What is something you’re especially good at?
- Pointer finger – What direction are you heading? Is there a new goal, interest or destination calling you?
- Middle finger – What’s something that frustrates or angers you?
- Ring finger – What is your core commitment? What is most important to you?
- Pinky – What’s a little-known fact about you?
Be prepared to share about your answers to these questions.
By spending some time before an event developing connecting questions that allow other people to share about themselves, you will be well equipped to make yourself and those you are visiting with feel at ease and connected.