Want to have better conversations or be more interesting in meetings? Learn to talk about more than the weather.
Not everyone is a great conversationalist, and even the best have a tough day now and then. Plus, we all have clients that are challenging to talk to. So, how can you create a better conversation? Here are four ideas:
1) Be interesting by doing interesting things
“Interesting” can be simple or complex. Great conversations can come from things as simple as going to a gallery opening, book reading, or concert. Or for more extreme conversation topics, try running a marathon or skydiving, running with the bulls, or inventing the next great microbrew—you get the idea. Talk about, blog about, and share your interesting experiences.
2) Talk to yourself first
Sometimes I go though the steps of an upcoming meeting in my office or in the car. I work through possible questions that may arise or think of topics I can bring up if there is a lull. This exercise helps me visualize my presentation as a whole, as well as prepare for any surprises that come to light. Doing this makes me more comfortable, which makes my presentation go better and keeps the conversation flowing throughout the entire meeting. If I’m struggling, I think about the most outrageous or awkward questions that might be asked – this could be my warped sense of humor, but I have very seldom been caught off guard.
3) Read interesting stuff
Conversations with clients, or anyone in general, improve when you make time to read. It doesn’t have to just be books. Read up on your favorite blogs or magazines, and suddenly you’ll have a lot more to talk about. Plus, being up on current trends, technologies, etc., leads to more work because it results in deeper conversations and better relationships. One of the greatest aspects of Twitter is the ability to get snapshots of things that can be really engaging to talk about. You can use Twitter as a search engine to see what trends are hot in your clients’ industry; this is a great way to get familiar quickly with the current industry conversations or happenings.
4) Do your homework
Nothing beats research before a meeting. Reviewing your clients’ materials, their competition, or learning a little about their industry simply adds to the understanding and depth a meeting can have. Sure, this is a no-brainer. But if you are like me, it’s easy to lose track of time and never get around to doing it. With the ability to Google anything, getting the latest info about your client’s industry or company is easy, so make sure it doesn’t get brushed aside. Twitter, LinkedIn, and industry blogs are a gold mine for capturing key data.
Start interesting conversations by doing interesting things. Read. Go to a gallery opening. Run a marathon. Great dialog breaks through routine.
Image courtesy of Rule29
So, what do you do to better interact with your clients?
Bookmark sites that provide daily inspiration for you. This should include some of your clients’ sites or related content. On of my favorite inspiration sites is Jessica Hische’s Daily Drop Cap.
Schedule time before a meeting to spend at least thirty minutes searching for the latest news about your client. Don’t just do this for new ones. And it’s always good to send your existing clients links to some of the latest things you are reading that they might not even know about..
USA Today: The CliffsNotes of the newspaper world. Have it on your phone and get an overview of what is going on in the world.
For inspiration, watch and read some of the brilliance you’ll find at The Most Interesting Man in the World campaign.