Guest Blog – Ian Earl (Director – Go Network Club)

Call me old fashioned, but I do miss the simplicity of the days when we could just have a good old conversation. As I look around the restaurant I’m sitting in, I’m startled to see that EVERY SINGLE PERSON is silently tapping away on their mobile phones, instead of engaging with the people sitting around their tables. And yes, I realise I myself am tapping away working on this blog post. I’ve also just sent my partner a text message and checked to see if I’ve had an email from my daughter. All this has got me wondering; are we losing the art of conversation? Will people begin to shy away from face to face interaction?

As people in business, we need to ensure that we cling to this dying art with all our might, because even now it’s still the most effective way of gaining new clients. Despite the rapidly growing world of social media, recommendations from people we trust are still the most likely to result in a purchase. And so we need to make sure we keep having conversations, keep building relationships and keep building that trust.

When it comes to attending events, your preparation should include giving some forethought to conversation starters. Questions are always a great way to break the ice and get someone engaged in conversation. Try asking if they have attended these events before, or how they heard about the event. If they are wearing a name badge with their company name, ask them about what they do or what it’s like working for that company. Once you’ve initiated the conversation, the rest usually comes naturally.

So what should you be doing to have a great conversation once you’ve got one started? It’s probably said most often, but listen. And I mean really listen. Most people’s favourite topic is themselves, so by listening, you can ask genuine questions and be interested in what that person has to say. Don’t be tempted to interrupt or try to go one better; the person who is always trying to get “one up” is never popular!

I hope we keep exercising our conversational skills in future; even though we increasingly interact through our mobile devices, I think the world of business (and indeed, the world in general!) still needs us to sit down together and have a good face to face discussion as often as we can.

It would be great to hear your thoughts. Are we losing our conversational abilities? Do mobile devices make the world a smaller place, or make the spaces bigger between us all? How crucial do you believe face to face interaction will be for business going forward?

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