This conversation tip is really simple…ask all the questions.
I haven’t always loved party conversations. You can get stuck listening to someone talk about their stimulating trip to turkey 10 years ago (yep, that happened to me!). You can rudely assume to know the character of someone’s husband you’ve never met (oops, that one was me!). Or, you can be left stammering after you’ve been lobbed the dreaded question, ‘So what do you do?’. We all know that a sweeping conversation starter is code for…’I can’t actually remember your name, let alone what industry you work in..please throw me a bone.’
So, my tested and tried solution for party conversations is to ask the questions. Or rather, ask a key question at just the right time to nudge and steer the conversation. It’s like you’re a kid again, helping your leaf boat down a creek. When it gets stuck behind a stick, you gently help it on its way.
Depending on the setting my approach changes slightly but basically it goes like this…
1. Ask the first question. This is important. Usually when a group forms or a conversation starts there’s an opening. It’s important to use this window, as it allows you to start facilitating the leaf down the creek. You can ask for advice, ‘What’s your favourite restaurant? I want to book somewhere nice for James’ birthday’. Or you can ask about travel, ‘Are you planning any trips?’. Another one I love is, ‘Have you watched anything good lately?’
2. Find the sweet spot. Watch the speaker religiously. Look for the moment they relax into what they’re saying. Take note of what they were saying when this happened, usually it’s a sort of ‘passion zone’ they’re comfortable with.
3. Roll on. Continue the conversation by asking meaningful follow-up questions around this ‘passion zone’.