Years ago, as a young associate editor for Contract magazine, I went to my first NeoCon trade show in Chicago at The Merchandise Mart. I was assigned to visit about 15 showrooms, find the marketing vice president or president, introduce myself, and have a business conversation.
Being an introvert, talking to strangers wasn't comfortable for me at first. But I learned how to do it.
This weekend, many of you are heading to the Healthcare Design Expo & Conference in New Orleans. You'll be attending educational sessions and keynotes, going on facility tours, visiting companies in the expo, participating in meetings, going out to dinner, and attending special events and receptions.
You'll also be having a lot of business conversations -- with colleagues, clients, vendors, and other individuals you'll meet for the first time.
How can you make the most out of these conversations? So that you learn something, get a great idea, or begin/retain a mutually beneficial business relationship?
Here are 6 suggestions (shamelessly ripped off from leadership mentor Michael Hyatt) for having a better business conversation:
1. Be Intentional
Approach every conversation with the goal of having a good conversation. Remind yourself of this every time you start talking to someone.
2. Use Open-Ended Questions
These are questions that require more than just one-word answers. Examples: Have you ever been to this conference before? What sessions have you been to that have been interesting? Which session are you going to next? What’s the coolest thing you’re doing now?
3. Ask a Second Question
Pose a follow-up to your first question so you can dig deeper into the conversation. Any of the questions I suggested in #2 above could be followed up with another question. It's about finding out the "why" behind the "what."
4. Draw Out Quieter People
If you're at a small group gathering, like a business dinner or get-to-know-you meeting, there's always someone who doesn't jump into the conversation. But often it's that person who has the most interesting thing to say. Draw them out by asking them what they think.
5. Don't "One Up" People
The most insulting thing you can do to someone is to top their story with one of your own. It signals that you're not really hearing or processing what they are saying, and that you are more important than them. Listen to their story and ask questions instead.
6. Do More Listening Than Talking
This is really hard to do for most of us. Because we like to talk about ourselves. But, if you truly focus on listening to someone instead of thinking about a response, you'd be amazed at how much more satisfying it is.
One More Thing
Don't be afraid to ask personal questions or delve into topics of the day (except maybe U.S. politics!). People love to talk about their kids, hobbies, favorite sports teams, etc. -- and it gives you some insight into their personality.
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