Too often, a conversation results in wasted time — and nothing productive to show for it. Whether you’ve run into someone at a conference or you have a scheduled call, you can use specific tactics to have a more meaningful conversation. Here are 13 ways to add meaning to your conversations:
1. Don’t get too excited about your next thought.
People can tell when you aren’t truly listening because you just can’t wait to spit your next thought out. Before they’ve finished, you’re already eager to tell them about an amazing experience you had. Make it a point to listen before you speak. If your story’s really interesting, it will still be interesting in five minutes.
2. Ask good questions that show you’re engaged.
One of the best ways to show engagement is by expressing a natural curiosity for what the other person is telling you. Make it a point to ask at least one question before moving on to the next topic. Gathering details makes it more likely that you’ll be able to establish a connection with the other person or find a way you can lend a hand.
3. Do your homework without being creepy.
There’s a thin line between properly preparing yourself for a conversation and being creepy. Before you have a planned conversation, take a look at the person’s LinkedIn or Twitter account to get an idea of his tone, interests, etc. You’re always at an advantage when you know more about a person. It will be easier to relate to him — and you might avoid an awkward conversation or two.
4. Try to genuinely relate.
Some of the most important conversations we have are with those people who have “fan clubs” trying to form relationships with them. They can spot a fake bonding opportunity from a mile away. Don’t force the conversation. Try to hit on something the other person is passionate about that you’re also interested in. That way, the rapport is genuine and the person is more open to talking in-depth about the subject.
5. Don’t waste people’s time.
Most people appreciate it when you value their time. Sometimes, you can have a more meaningful conversation in 15 minutes than you can in an hour. What’s important to cover is how you can help each other out. Be genuine about delivering value and cut to the chase early.
6. Let people sell themselves.
Always get the other person to talk about himself first. Then, you’ll be able to sell yourself more naturally. If he’s interested in what you have to offer, you can naturally transition into a pitch that interests him — and doesn’t feel forced. A lot of times, a person will self-identify a need right after you talk about what you do.
7. Ask how you can add value.
It’s important to always ask people how you can add value for them. You may think you know what will help them, but they know better than anyone what they value. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities come up to connect people when you know what they actually prioritize.
8. Do what you can to help.
Simply offering a helping hand will differentiate you. Anybody can have a conversation offering to help someone out, but a small percentage actually delivers on their promises. People will value your relationship more when you actually provide what you’ve suggested: a contact, a tool, or even a sounding board.
9. Reach out in meaningful ways.
I recently had my first child, and a variety of people reached out to have a quick conversation expressing their excitement. It meant a lot that they truly cared about a meaningful moment in my life. You stand out when you make it a point to recognize milestones in people’s lives.
10. Decrease personal barriers.
There’s an assumption that you need to be super professional when first talking to someone. In my experience, most people like real conversations that don’t force them to act like people they aren’t. If you see an opportunity to joke around or personalize a conversation, take it — even if it’s early. It will decrease barriers from the start, and the shift will enable you to have a better conversation.
11. Listen and remember key points.
What does she do for fun? What is she passionate about? These things are important to remember. The next time you touch base, ask for an update. If you know she loves to travel, ask her when her next trip is. If it seems like she left an imprint during your last conversation, she’ll take you more seriously.
12. Hold back on sharing how awesome you are.
As a young entrepreneur, I couldn’t stop myself from talking about my accomplishments. However, as I get older, I realize that the most awesome people don’t have to pitch everyone on how awesome they are. People will naturally think you’re awesome as the conversation develops.
13. Recognize other people.
If you’re having a conversation with multiple people, or if someone’s spouse is standing nearby, make a point to include “the outsiders” in the conversation. Too often, people are so focused on speaking to one person that they forget to include someone who could turn into a cheerleader for them after they leave.
Run through this list the next time you go to a conference or event where you’ll encounter a lot of people. The fresher these tips are in your mind, the higher the likelihood that you’ll actually implement them. As a result, you’ll experience far less wasted time — and an increase in opportunities from everyday conversations.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through products and services ranging from creating and publishing bylined articles to facilitating in residence programs for brands and much more. Influence & Co., one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications, is the creator of Contributor Weekly. Connect with John on Twitter or Google+.
This article was written by John Hall from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.