Why I Should Be The One Who Strikes Up A Conversation

Why I Should Be The One Who Strikes Up A Conversation

Written by Vania Harista

As an intern in a public relations agency, I am often assigned to handle media registration at events. I greet every journalist, ask them to sign in the attendance list, give them goodie bags, and answer their questions. Sounds quite easy, right? Then, I notice that the consultant on duty is talking so casually with journalists as they are good friends. She also talks to the VIP guests oh so casually it amazes me and makes me wonder, “How does she do that?”

Networking skills are very important, especially in public relations, the art of persuasion. In the PR world, we create good stories and convince influential people such as journalists, bloggers and public figures to tell our stories in order to influence larger numbers of target audiences. It will be easier to convince those influential people if we know them well, right?

 

Back to my situation as an intern who barely knows anyone. I should start building my professional network. Press events provide a perfect opportunity to meet people from related industries. But, in those situations where I see a group of people talking and laughing happily in one corner and several others busy with their phones in another, I sometimes find myself discouraged. To be honest, by nature, I am an awkward girl. Many things pop up in my mind. Should I greet them? What should I say? What if they think I’m weird? Should I wait for them to come and greet me first? And so on.

 

From my observation, I have arrived at a conclusion. Maybe we are afraid to start a conversation with strangers because we forget that every conversation is a mutual experience. Conversation happens when more than two people talk to each other. We don’t have to be the only who are worried about what to say.

 

Okay, I got it. We don’t have to be afraid to start a conversation. Now, I am going to share some tips for having a great conversation.

 

  1. Put your best smile when you greet people or listen to them talk! Everyone loves to see you smile. As the old saying goes, smile and the whole world smiles with you! J
  2. Ask open-ended questions as an invitation for the other person to talk. Besides, it will help the conversation to develop and flow smoothly. Questions like “What have you been doing lately?” let your partner share a lot of things and unconsciously open up to you. Avoid asking questions that require a “Yes” or “No” answer, or else, you’ll be going crazy thinking about the next questions. In addition, conversation will get cold and sounds more like a questionnaire. 
  3. Get the other person to talk. Please note this, dear. Everybody loves talking about themselves a little bit too much. Sometimes, without realizing it, we get caught up in our narratives about ourselves, especially when the other person is a passive individual. Give your partner the chance to talk with simple questions like “How about you?” or “What do you think?” after sharing your thoughts. Oh, and please, don’t interrupt.
  4. Listen! You may say that you listen well, when actually you think hard about what to say next and rehearse it in your head (I often do it). The worst thing that could happen is you may look at the face of your partner in conversation and smile, while actually you are busy evaluating and dismissing every statement. This may not seem like a problem, until you ask about things your partner has said which you don’t pay attention to... oops, akward…
  5. Show that you’re interested and give compliments. It always feels great to get a compliment. Instead of expressing admiration for your partner’s physical appearance, try to praise their thoughts. For example, your partner tells you about his working experience. You can respond by saying,  ”How wonderful! Not everybody has that kind of experience.”
  6. Learn and remember other people’s names, because nothing is worse than asking someone’s name twice. I know sometimes it’s hard to remember names. I usually mention my partner’s name while talking like “So, Joe, how’s your trip?” It is quite effective for me.
  7. Offer them help, like bringing them drink or food. This is very helpful when you run out of words and gives an impression that you are a caring person. Clever, right? 
  8. And, in the end, don’t take it personally! Sometimes you meet certain people that give you cold response or even make an excuse to leave you. It’s really okay, as long as you do all the things above correctly. Just tell yourself that those persons are having a really bad day.

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