In our previous article, we talked about the importance of networking for career success. In this article, we will be talking about the predictors of networking success. Specifically, establishing and maintaining a conversation. Even if you engage in the act of networking, that does not necessarily guarantee success.
Picture this: you are at a networking event and you happen to strike up a conversation with someone. You exchange some pleasantries and talk about your work. Eventually, the conversation stalls and the dreaded awkward pause happens. After that, you part ways with that person but the cycle repeats whenever you try to strike up a conversation. Sooner or later, the event comes to an end and you leave feeling dissatisfied.
This situation is familiar to many of us, especially the introverts. There is a lot of advice out there on how to achieve networking success. However, many of them fail to mention the importance creating and maintaining conversations. After all, striking up a conversation is one of the most straightforward ways for people to create new connections and deepen existing ones. It stands to reason that if you are able to maintain a conversation with someone, they are more likely to be interested in you.
In fact, a paper published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes uncovered that it is conversational flow that is a key predictor of networking success. According to that paper, conversational flow is defined as interactions that are smooth, efficient and mutually engaging. In other words, conversations that have little interruptions and "awkward" pauses. Moreover, their research actually indicates that the flow of the conversation is more important than the content of it. This is because good conversational flow demonstrates unity and eases tensions between speakers.
If you are interested in learning how to create and maintain conversational flow, here are 3 steps that you can take to ensure that you never run out of things to say.
1. Develop an "elevator pitch"
People usually start a conversation by introducing themselves. You can take this step further by including interesting information about you. This can be related to your job role, a hobby or even a fun fact. Doing this will provide outlets in which the other person can continue a conversation with you. Similarly, you should pay attention to their "elevator pitch" and talk about their interesting tidbit. Furthermore, this rule can be applied to the research that you have done before the networking event. After researching on industry trends, you can prepare a short speech about it and even add your own insights. Preparing an "elevator pitch" is immensely helpful to those who often find themselves not knowing what to say during a conversation.
2. Remove your inner filter
One of the main reasons why conversations often lapse and experience awkward pauses is because the speakers hold back. They need to internally "check" themselves and make sure that whatever they are say next is not dumb. However, they hold themselves back so much that that the lull in the conversation is prolonged and becomes too awkward to break. The key to solving this is to remove your inner filter and just speak whatever is in your mind. Granted, it is good to exercise some self-restraint so that you don't accidentally offend the other person. Nonetheless, you will find that most people find it refreshing when you speak your mind. This is an overlooked step when it comes to maintaining conversational flow.
3. Exit a conversation gracefully
You have said your elevator pitch and you have spoken your mind, and yet, it seems like the other person is just not interested or paying attention. In such cases, it is better to cut your losses and move on. Rather than abruptly leaving the conversation (even if that is what you want to do), bring it to a proper end. In a professional setting, doing this will ensure that you do not leave a bad impression on the other person. Besides, knowing how gracefully leave a conversation will also keep the good feelings you have garnered during the exchange. This will ensure that that the new connection you have made will want to continue the relationship.
Conversation isn't about proving a point; true conversation is about going on a journey with the people you are speaking with. - Ricky Maye