Leadership Series: Conversation

Posted on Jul 30, 2016 in Entrepreneur, Small Business, Small Business Tips and Tricks Series, Success | Comments Off on Leadership Series: Conversation

Leadership Series: Conversation


You’re heading to an important business event with industry experts and thought-leaders primed as the keynotes. Speaking starts at 8pm but the networking mixer begins at 7pm. So what do you do? In most cases, the average leader would justify his/her way out of thinking it necessary and show up at 8pm for the speakers. But why? Maybe because you’re busy, but we all know that making great connections is essential for success. How about because it’s uncomfortable? Tiring? Or perhaps you think you just don’t have much to say. Well then, you’re in the right spot.

Today, with the help of Debra Fine, author of “The Fine Art of Small Talk,” we’re going to discuss how to do three things:

  • Start a conversation
  • Keep it going
  • Gracefully exit


Start a conversation

First things first. It’s important to know that conversation starting is completely in your hands. If we have the mindset that someone else will come talk to us or keep the conversation going, we’ll be in for a dull night that might just drag on in awkward glances and empty silences. Just go for it!


Here’s how most any conversation will start:

Person 1: Hi, I’m Sally Jones—[extends hand]

Person 2: [Extends hand]—Hi, Sally, I’m Dave Smith. Nice to meet you.

Person 1:  Nice to meet you, too, Dave. What got you interested in insert subject of event here?


Simple (but maybe not so easy!). Give your name and a handshake. They’ll give theirs with a pleasantry. You offer a pleasantry and pose an open-ended question. We’ve started.


Keep it going

Once you get past the initial background questions (where are you from, etc.), it’s time to get some good conversation rolling—the kind that lasts beyond facts and gets into a little more meaning.

Here are some examples of conversation provoking questions and statements:

  • Tell me about…
  • Why…?
  • How does/do you….?

Try to avoid yes/no questions or simple “what is…?” questions that don’t have a follow up.


Gracefully exit

Now you feel like the conversation has been well but it’s time to move on to the next person. So what do you do? Here are a few of Fine’s suggestions:

  • Ask for a referral – “Do you know anyone else that works in the … industry here? I’d love to talk to them.
  • Ask them to join you – “Let’s go meet the speaker.”
  • Show appreciation – “I’ve really enjoyed talking, I’m glad we crossed paths.”
  • Issue an invitation – “It would be great to continue talking, we should do lunch sometime.”

The key here is to be both brief and kind.  Because as Fine puts it, “done properly, an authentic farewell will actually enhance your relationship.”


This is just scratching the surface on the subject. But the hope is that these suggestions will help you feel more confident in going to that early networking mixer–or just conversing wherever you find yourself. And not just that but having a great experience as you start up conversation, keep it going and then gracefully exit.


Good luck!