This is a speech outline I recently presented on Conversing with Ease. The Outline is adapted from the Toastmasters Interpersonal Communication Advanced Speech Manual Project # 1. www.toastmsters.org
Basic conversation plays an important role in our everyday lives. We converse with family, friends, co-workers, the clerk at the store etc. It is via conversation that we interact with the world around us. It can be for simple pleasure, or to achieve a specific goal. Conversation done well can enrich our lives, but done poorly, can cause missed opportunities, hurt feelings and conflict. As speakers we often focus on the skills needed to stand and present before a large group, but for most us, we most often find ourselves speaking one on one, or in small groups.
I know for me, some of the most difficult conversations are those with someone I just met. Let’s take a moment and look at some of the principals that can help us in those situations.
I. Your Attitude
A. Keep it positive
B. Hold the conviction that everyone is interesting, and that you can learn something from them.
C. Hold the conviction that you are interesting and others can learn from you.
II. Be well read
A. Keep yourself exposed to a broad range of topics and current events.
B. Expose yourself to areas of interests outside your own. You do not need to be an expert in all areas, but a broad general knowledge will take take you a long way.
III. The three subjects of the initial conversation.
B. The other person(s)
C. Your current mutual situation (where are you having the conversation ie. party, bus stop, networking event)
D. Primary focus should be on the other person, and current mutual situation
IV. Start the small talk. Be brave and initiate the conversation
A. Introduce yourself
B. Ask name, residence, or other info based on situation
C. Listen carefully – Be on the lookout for areas of common interest.
D. Does the person seem interested in talking?
E. Compliments can be a great starter, but use wisely. You do not want it to sound like you are giving a pick up line.
V. Use open ended questions.
A. You can start with a few closed questions (yes, no or simple answers) ie. “Do you live close to work?”
B. Move to open ended questions as soon as possible. ie “Tell me why you like working at xyz company?”
C. Once again, be sure and listen for areas of common interest or experience.
D. Be sure and share some things about you.
E. Avoid the 20 questions grilling. As the conversation goes along it should flow to a natural back and forth without having to ask questions.
VI. Stay engaged
A. Look and act interested. (not just going through the motions) Make eye contact
I realize the outline may make personal conversation somewhat oversimplified, but it should be enough to get you started without boring you with a bunch of fluff. If you would like some additional information, just add a comment.