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13 Techniques for Becoming a Brilliant Conversationalist

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber

Networking is great. Coffee meetings are inevitable. But be honest: how many times do you actually remember the people you meet? More importantly, how often do you think they actually remember you?

The impression you make boils down to how well you communicate your value to others, and it happens within a few split seconds (Tweet This!). With that in mind, I asked 13 members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share their top tips for becoming a master networker, no matter the setting:

1. Be Present

Sometimes it's hard to silence your thoughts while talking to others, but that means you're not being present with those around you. Practice turning off the chatter so you can be fully engaged with whomever is in front of you. Lose your agenda, and quiet your mind. The gift of your presence is the greatest you can give. People feel and appreciate it, and that can go further than your own agenda. - Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Related: The 10 Most Awesome Business Phrases of All Time

2. Ask How You Can Help

Asking people what you can do to help opens up new ways of engaging that are otherwise closed. With so many people wanting something from you, networking can be frustrating. I find it refreshing to talk with someone who tries to help by putting on your shoes to solve one of your biggest challenges. - Seth Talbott, Preferling

3. Don't Ask About Someone's Job

Rather than asking about someone's job, ask what they're excited about or what keeps them busy. It's a great way to quickly find out what makes someone light up instead of just sharing something shallow, and it will help you create a deeper connection. - Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent

4. Know Your Audience

Know your audience. This can be accomplished through quick and easy Internet research, so there really is no reason not to take the time. Also, it's so easy to think about what you are going to say next or focus on what you want from your audience that you forget to listen. Conversations are a form of two-way communication, which involves not only talking but listening as well. - Bobby Grajewski, Edison Nation Medical

5. Test Everything

Many entrepreneurs already extensively A/B test their marketing copy, website design and other aspects of their business in order to optimize their efforts. There's no reason you can't do the same thing in conversation. Try testing how you explain your background, what your company does or the answers to questions that you tend to be asked frequently. - Emerson Spartz, Spartz

6. Be Vulnerable and Share Challenges

Research shows that being vulnerable leads to a stronger sense of connection with others. Rather than talking about surface-level topics, you're more likely to build authentic, lasting relationships if you dig a little deeper and share some of the challenges you're both facing. - Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

7. Give, Give, Give

When networking and building relationships, try and give as much as you can. Don't look for what you can gain; instead, look for what you can give. The more you can give, the more you will receive. Find something that you can do for that person, and it will come back to you. - Matt Ames, MN Pro Paintball

8. Remember Their Name

Time after time, I see people remember a company instead of the actual person. Instead of just learning someone's position at a company, take the time to learn her first and last name and -- preferably -- something personal. I give others instant credibility when they say, "I just met Jane from XYZ company and she loves the same coffee as you!" rather than simply, "I met the CFO of XYZ company." - Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

9. Forget the Weather

Forget about asking about the weather. Make it about the other person. Be inquisitive, ask questions and focus your attention on the person you are talking to. - Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

10. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Comedy or acting classes are a fun way to learn, and they can get entrepreneurs comfortable on their feet. For anyone that often has to present, speak publicly or pitch workshops, it can be fruitful to practice in front of a crowd when you tell your personal and brand story. - Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting

11. Print What You Do on Your Business Card

I print business cards that have different images of our videos on them. People often ask what I do when I'm at a networking event. I can pull out a card and show them an example or I can pick one that might be about a topic that interests them. We're then able to find more common ground, and it breaks the ice. - Andrew Angus, Switch Video

12. Practice Makes Perfect

Every entrepreneur needs to perfect their elevator pitch. Talk to yourself in front of the mirror and talk to others, especially those who will question what you say. I'll talk to my husband or even to my kids. Talking things out can help you work out the kinks. - Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

13. Never Lose Eye Contact

With so many distractions in this day and age, it's refreshing to talk to someone who doesn't allow herself to be distracted during the conversation. Each time you look at your phone or something else in the room, it tells the person you are speaking with that you don't have any interest in what she is saying. This can quickly destroy the relationship. - Janis Krums, Opprtunity

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber Member
Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.