By Debra Fine
Do you avoid talking to people in business settings? Do you dread receptions, banquets and other business-related social events? Do you struggle to make meaningful, long-term connections with your team members? You’re not alone. Many of us are apprehensive about these situations because most of us either hate entering rooms where we don’t know anyone or hate spending time with people we don’t know well.
Taking the following steps will help you feel confident when faced with situations in which you need to make conversation, whether personally or professionally:
1) Introduce and initiate. Go ahead and initiate a conversation with a simple “hello.” Introduce yourself and be aware of how he introduces himself to you. Use his name throughout your interaction. This will help you remember it in the future. By taking ownership and initiating a conversation, you will feel more in control to drive the direction of the exchange.
2) Use an icebreaker. An icebreaker not only provides a way to meet new people, but also helps jump-start conversations. For example, using an icebreaker such as “Tell me about the type of work your firm is involved in” can lead to a fruitful conversation, rather than an uncomfortable silence. Some other valuable icebreakers you might use are:
• “Bring me up to date on your latest project.”
• “What do you find to be the most enjoyable aspect of your job?”
• “Tell me about your history with ________.”
• “How did you come to find yourself in the travel and tourism industry?”
3) Express interest and make an effort. You have to be interested if you want to be interesting. Part of your job as a conversee is to get the other person to talk. Listen to what she is saying and ask relevant follow-up questions. Take cues from her and make a mental list of questions you can ask to get her to elaborate.
4) Find common ground. Whether you’re chatting with a new team member or a business-function speaker, it’s important to stay on a related topic. As long as you stay on a subject you are both familiar with—such as your specific field or the day’s events—you’ll be able to communicate easily. Why were you in the setting you’re in? Did you find today’s seminar helpful? Wasn’t the memo this week interesting?
With a simple hello followed by genuine interest in the person you are talking with, you can turn every conversation in the motorcoach travel and tourism industry into an opportunity for success!
• Be up to speed on pop culture so you can draw on it if there is a lull in conversation.
• Make eye contact and be aware of body language.
• Appear confident, but not conceited.
• Stay on topics with which you’re familiar.
Debra Fine has been a presenter at ABA's Marketplace for the previous four years, working nationwide as a keynote speaker and trainer. She is the best-selling author of The Fine Art of Small Talk. Visit www.debrafine.com for additional information and resources.