Effective Business Networking: How to Keep a Conversation Going

Whenever you meet someone new, whether it’s at an informal gathering (e.g. a party) or at a more formal venue (e.g. a business conference), sometimes it’s hard to know how to start a conversation. Keeping it going is even harder. How can you have a great, memorable conversation that your conversant won’t forget? The good news is that there are two simple tricks for captivating the person your talking to. Keep reading and I’ll explain how.

Trick #1: Turn the spotlight on them, not you. Rather than focusing too much on you, the more you can get your conversant to think about and speak about themselves, the more engrossed they will be with the subject matter of the conversation. Confident people realize that if they listen more than they talk, they will learn more about someone, and in the process, they are able to captivate the talker. In most cases, the talker won’t even realize that he or she is doing most of the talking! This technique works surprisingly well, and even causes you to be more memorable to the speaker. My manager still remembers one conversation I had with him when I first got to know him. He considers it one of our best conversations, but the truth is, I didn’t say much but rather kept the conversation on him!

Trick #2: Echo key words like a parrot. Conversations naturally bounce back and forth between you and the other person. It can be nerve-wracking when it gets back to be your turn, and you don’t know what to say next to keep the flow of the conversation going. Fortunately, a foolproof technique is to identify a key word that your speaker just said, and to echo it back, prompting further elaboration. For example, here’s a sample conversation that makes use of the echo technique to easily keep a conversation going (and even steering it different ways):

  • Partner: “I had a great time at the conference.”
  • You: “Conference?”
  • Partner: “Yeah, food was wonderful, and the keynote speakers were really good too.”
  • You: “Good keynote speakers?”
  • Partner: “Yeah, Bob Johns was there, and Adam Carlson gave a talk on business ethics.”
  • You: “Business ethics?”
  • Partner: “Yeah… [conversation continues].”
  • You (repeating earlier keyword to take conversation a different direction): “You said the food was wonderful?”

Keep these two simple techniques in mind, and the conversations will flow and be more memorable. Good luck!