Posted by & filed under Public speaking.

Business cardHow do you feel when you walk into a room full of strangers?

Are you uncomfortable, perhaps scanning anxiously for a friendly face in the crowd? Do you tremble at the thought of trying to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know?

Or do you feel enthusiastic and excited, happy  to talk with anyone about anything?

Being able to converse well has a great impact on our business and professional lives. Every friendship or business relationship that enriches our lives starts with a conversation. Conversation is an important part of human nature, one that we need to function properly and without which we will certainly struggle to be successful as human beings.

Talking with other people stimulates us, providing new ideas and enabling us to explore what we already have, and what we still need to learn. It also fulfills the basic human need for expressing and dealing successfully with conflict.

Successful people usually share a common characteristic: They can carry on a conversation with just about anybody. For example, a skilled sales person can put a prospective client at ease, creating positive first impressions and enhancing their personal brand and professional leverage.

So why do we sometimes hesitate?

We all tend to put ourselves under great pressure to perform, to do well, to be successful, to not fail.

This becomes protracted when meeting someone new: The fact is that making a good first impression means first making ourselves vulnerable to the other person. Conversation is the art of giving and receiving, and sooner or later you may have to divulge something about yourself to this total stranger. And there is a very real possibility that the other person may not respond positively!

So being a tiny bit hesitant or nervous is a totally human response to what potentially can be a stressful situation, if we allow it to be. Unless you have been blessed with amazing confidence and a total adrenalin by-pass, most people will feel a frisson of nerves when meeting a stranger.

How can this be managed?

  1. First of all, striking up a conversation requires a positive attitude. It helps to believe┬áthat everyone you are going to meet will be interesting, and that they will find you interesting as well. (Let’s face it: Most people are quite friendly and pleasant to talk to!)
  2. Set out with the view that you have a lot to offer, and that you also want to learn from others. This ensures a mutually reciprocal, sharing situation rather than a situation where one person dominates the other in the conversation. Think of a game of tennis: Bounce the discussion to your conversation partner, and give them time to lob it back to you before you bat it back again.
  3. Make sure that you are informed enough to have useful, interesting material to contribute. Equally, express an interest in the other person(s) and what they have to contribute. Ask open-ended questions that allow a detailed response.
  4. The art of conversation is about speaking less and listening more. Allow the conversation to flow by listening, encouraging and questioning in an interested, sincere manner.
  5. Never, ever, EVER sell! Even at a networking event. Share, add value, look out for the buying signals before pitching. There is nothing more boring than a person who just sells, sells, sells. Unless you are at a speed-selling event, keep it light.
  6. Try to be sincere

If you are interested in developing your speaking skills, please send me an email to I will be very happy to work with you to gain the skills you need to get the results you desire


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