Five practical tips for starting a useful and productive conversations in a group situation, like a meeting or seminar.
Starting a conversation is not always easy. Especially when you don’t feel comfortable with the people you are conversing with. There could be an eerie feeling of awkwardness at the start of the interaction unless you know the five secrets…
1. Get everyone involved.
When starting a conversation, introducing people to each other could be necessary, if you don’t know each other or some of those present don’t know others. Connect one of your group to the topic you are talking about by inviting him or her to contribute. Or you might simply relate one person to another with their commonalities to encourage dialogue.
2. Choose a topic.
When starting your conversation, choose a general topic that everyone can relate to. This will let everyone feel that they belong. This is a great way to encourage everyone to share ideas.
3. Do not drill with questions.
This should be avoided especially when asking one person only. The person may feel that he or she is facing a firing squad. Asking too many questions to a person may let him or her feel uncomfortable.
By doing so you might give that person a reason to leave the conversation. The others may also feel uncomfortable with this – they might think that they will be asked next!
4. Break the ice.
At first, there may be awkwardness among the group. You can work to break the ice. Each one of the members is just waiting for someone to do this. You can do this by cracking a joke to make them laugh. You can also start by telling a story. This may lead them to share their story, too. Then, everything will follow.
5. Ask open-ended questions.
These require a more than yes or no answer. These questions will make the flow of your conversation much smoother if done intelligently. These questions can even lead you to another topic. Asking questions allows you to quickly test the waters to see which topics people are interested in discussing. Just be careful to ask with a pleasant tone.
It is not necessary to use all of these tips or to use them in order. You can simply choose which ones are most appropriate for the situations you find yourself in. What matters is using these tips to kick off a conversation on a positive upbeat tone.
Once you start experimenting with new ways to start conversations you will notice what works best for your personality. At this point, it will all be much easier and before you know it you may even enjoy meeting new people and chairing meetings!