9 practical tips for serious online & offline communication!
So communication is the name of the game. That doesn’t mean you like it. You may even dread it. Now that it’s as common online as it is offline, you have the advantage of not having to worry as much about body language, figurative language, or language in general, but your words and tone are more important than ever.
Some people are naturally better with words and more outgoing. It’s often the product of natural ability and a social upbringing. If you have to speak in a foreign language, that’s an added challenge.
In other words, it’s not your fault if you’re not articulate, but it’s something you need to get better at. And you can but you need to put in a little extra work.
Connections start with encounters and encounters typically start with a little small talk. Here are 10 ways to make yourself and your business look good.
1. do your homework
When you attend a meeting, whether it’s a Zoom networking event or an industry gathering, do a little preparation so you have plenty to talk about.
For example, if you are attending a networking event, you should find out:
- Who is the host and sponsor of the event?
- What are the topics?
- Who else is attending, and who do they work for?
Just like a formal business presentation – preparation is key. Review the event page and other written information. Check the organizers’ profiles on LinkedIn. Google them. See where they are leading.
When you talk to the organizers, you can discuss their goals for the event, show them you care about their success, and try to help them.
You can also use what you’ve learned to start conversations with other attendees – perhaps about their work or about the main topics of conversation at the event.
2. connect on LinkedIn or other social media first.
Social media and followers are more relevant than ever in a time like this. If you’re meeting with someone, whether in politics or a potential business partner you want to connect with, check out their social media profile first. Then:
- Find out about their job responsibilities
- Look at any articles on the site they’ve recently written or shared
- Find out what experiences or hobbies you have in common.
You might discover a common interest you can message him about, or a post you can comment on to spark a conversation. Either way, you’ll have a starting point for your small talk when you eventually meet the person online or in real life. Plus, everyone is happy to have new followers!
3. ask interested questions
Small talk is a sport for two people. When you ask good questions, you share the responsibility of keeping the conversation flowing while showing how interested you are in learning about others. Unless the general topic is about politics, they leave that out of it! Focus on the content.
At formal networking events, it’s especially important to ask interested contextual questions. For example, asking, “What, led you to this event?” and “What do you think of the speaker?” will set you apart from the hordes of other attendees still clinging to a stilted, “So, what do you do? … and where are you from?”.
For example, if you want to be persuasive in a consultation, you can also use the knowledge you’ve used to directly link examples based on your counterpart’s information!
4. don’t worry about being an introvert
You may worry that you are an introvert by nature. That’s because you are an introvert! So it’s okay. Your ability to focus on one person without having to work the entire room can be a huge advantage. Let the extroverts do their thing. Show them empathy!
Fear is rarely helpful in small talk, and as Melissa Wadsworth, author of How to Make Small Talk: Conversation Starters, Exercises, and Scenarios explains, “Extroverts have the gift of easy conversation, and introverts have the gift of easy listening […] These opposing gifts actually complement each other very well. You certainly won’t run into the problem of people talking over each other.”
In online meetings, it’s actually easier to stay quiet because only one person can speak at a time. However, stay focused in a flash and follow up later in a side room or via email or social media.
5. Be the first to say “hello.”
This tip comes from Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk. As she explains, when you meet someone for the second time, you can use this opportunity to put the other person at ease:
“If you’re not sure the other person will remember you, give your name to help. For example, “Jared Holst? Debra Fine … nice to see you again.”
6. use people’s names
Link a new person’s name to another piece of information about them in a memorable way. so “Michael” becomes – “Michael the marketing expert.” This shows some empathy on your part is and will help you to be more persuasive during consultations and conversations.
7. make use of your environment
From where you are to the clothes you wear, your surroundings can be a rich source of conversation starters:
“Do you know who created that beautiful statue at the front desk?”; “I love your purse – where did you find it?”; “Yes, that’s my university tie – did you study there, too?”
Be mindful of your tone when doing this. As a bonus, picking up on clues from your surroundings shows that you are observant and attentive. Again, you can use figurative language depending on the context.
8. Develop your own story and practice until it becomes automatic.
As a boss, you have to explain your business to people all the time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t refine your story.
If you’re able to quickly and easily adjust your elevator pitch depending on who you’re talking to, the initial stages of small talk will be much easier – and you’ll be able to quickly build a great relationship.
Practice is key here:
- Write down the most important information, that you want to convey.
- Look for concrete examples and surprising details.
- Focus on the problem you’re solving, not the product you’re manufacturing
For example, instead of saying “We make micro-irrigation systems,” say “We help people grow grapes in the desert.”
Once you’ve created a short elevator pitch (ideally as short as possible), try it out on your family. Imagine saying it to people of different ages or people with different insight into what you do.
Over time, you will develop several variations that you will use without thinking, depending on who you are talking to.
9. Remember to listen. And do a lot of it.
Communication is important. So ask yourself these questions: when should you talk? And when should you just listen? Dr. Mark Goulston, author of “Just Listen,” gives a simple strategy in the Harvard Business Review:
When you start talking, imagine a traffic light:
For the first 20 seconds, your light is green – if you say something relevant, your listener should stay with youFor
the next 20 seconds, your light is yellow – there’s a risk that your conversation partner will think you’re overly talkativeAt
40 seconds, your light turns red – it’s time to stop and listen for yourself!
Here’s how. Have some brilliant business conversations!
Confidence, they say, is key. But most people are insecure in one way or another. Your confidence and self-efficacy grows the more you schmooze. So practice your speech too! If you are a boss, you already have a lot to be confident about. So be the boss, boss.
This article was first published in the Weidner & Friends Agency magazine.