Networking is the backbone to nearly everything in life. It is how we meet new people on all levels…personal and professional. The first step in face to face networking, is approaching someone. You’ve exchanged introductions and engaged in small talk, now what?

Many conversations die after the small talk.

It is the job of the initiator of the conversation to keep it going. This can be done very easily and fluidly by asking casual questions. These can include asking about their job, education, workplace, where they live or grew up. What are their hobbies or favorite books or music? All of these topics can help keep the conversation flowing. Just remember; only ask those questions that you are willing to answer yourself.

Conversations seem to flow a basic evolution.

Small talk leads into humorous banter which eventually leads into deeper discussion revolving around thoughts or ideas. This evolution can be seen in nearly every conversation, not just those between two people who just met.

There are some very basic rules to make your networking conversations successful.

  1. Talk about yourself sparingly. Add your thoughts, but don’t hijack the conversation and make it about yourself.
  2. Employ the Tell Me More method of engagement. Ask the person to expand on their thought.
  3. Speaking slowly shows confidence and reduces the need for fillers such as um, ah and like.
  4. Be judgment free and show empathy.
  5. Compliment a person’s success, style or work ethic, but NEVER their beauty.
  6. Avoid taboo subjects, especially politics and religion.
  7. Mirror their body language and avoid negative body language.
  8. Golden rule – give your conversational partner your full attention. Always practice active listening.

A key concept most don’t know is that the more questions you ask and the more others talk about themselves, the more they think YOU are interesting! You read that right! You are more interesting the more engaged you keep the other party!


Keeping the conversation going beyond the introductions and small talk is the next step in mastering the art of networking. Follow these rules and you will be able to talk to anyone in any setting. Next time we will look at the last piece of the networking puzzle…body language.

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