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I had a delightful telephone conversation this morning with a perfect stranger.  Now, for some of you, especially you introverts, that may sound like a complete oxymoron. (Ok, I admit it. If I were to list my Top 10 Favorite Things to Do, having a conversation with a stranger probably would not make the cut.) But there was absolutely nothing uncomfortable about this visit.

Why? For starters, the mutual friend who introduced us did so very thoughtfully and strategically, noting that both of us are connectors and consultants who are fascinated with the topics of personal and professional growth and leadership. Not only was it a safe bet to introduce us, it seemed rather necessary. (That’s what I love about great connections.  Sometimes you just can’t NOT make them.)   The benefits we took away from the visit were multi-dimensional and well worth the hour we each invested. And who knows what any future interactions and exchanges will bring. 

But I’m not here to gloat. My goal today is to share with you what you can do to make visits and conversations with strangers more comfortable, meaningful, and rewarding. My new friend and I used some of these techniques today.

Patti’s Priceless Conversation Techniques & Topics

  1. Ask about the obvious.  My new contact happened to be overseas, which made calculating time zones a little tricky. It seemed easiest to start there, so I asked her what had brought her to her current country of destination. That opened the conversation and led us to the next topic easily.
  2. Inquire about the person’s work or business.  A simple “Tell me about what you do” should suffice.  And if you want to talk about what they do in their leisure time, you could ask this: “So, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?”
  3. Do your homework first, if possible. If you have advance notice of your meeting with said stranger, be sure to visit their website, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages (or do a Google search) so you know a little about them. This really helps guide the conversation, and they will be flattered that you took the time to learn about them.
  4. Find out what they most enjoy about their work, projects and/or clients.
  5. Compare and contrast your work. How are you similar? How are you different?
  6. Ask about the books they’ve read and enjoyed lately.  I came away from the conversation with a list of several I can’t wait to buy and dive into.
  7. Are there any books you’ve both read? Compare notes on what you thought of them. We spent quite awhile on this topic and had some excellent a-ha’s.
  8. Discuss what professional organizations you belong to or what conferences or events you’ve enjoyed lately.  Here we found how our interests, goals, associations, and networks complement each other.
  9. As the conversation winds down, ask how you can support the other person or what next steps might be.  We found many ways to stay in touch and help each other, such as reviewing each other’s books, sharing each others blog posts, making introductions, and so on.
  10. If it feels right, exchange any further information or review any action items or promises you’ve made.
  11. If you have parting gift, resource, idea or connection you want to offer, do so.
  12. Follow through on 9, 10 and 11 ASAP.

What tips would you add to this list? How have you cultivated great conversations and connections with people you’ve met?
Have a story about a memorable conversation you’ve had?  I’m interested!  Let’s connect and talk about it! Email me at patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com.