Ever go to a social event and meet a person who just would not stop talking about themselves? You ask a friend about their vacation and before they get two sentences out this other person interrupts with their story of visiting that same place. Every time your friend tries to continue, the other guy interrupts with a bigger, better adventure. Or after asking you what you do for a living he goes on and on about his accomplishments with no prompting inquiry from you. Dominating the conversation, you’re stuck standing there nodding your head and mumbling “uh-huh” over and over. Bored to tears, you’re trying to figure out how to escape.

Does that person resemble you? In networking environments there is always the pressure to get your message out, but is that effective?  Only if by chance you randomly hit exactly on a pain point of the person you are conversing with. Otherwise you’ve been saddled with the description of a boor and have incentivized them to get away from you quickly. I’ve experienced that and been guilty of it.

As a very talkative person with strong convictions I must be very aware when I am dominating the conversation in not necessarily a good way. What I do now is ask questions; find out about them, their family, how long in the area, who do they work for, what is their position/department, use questions to show their potential as a prospect or influencer.  I’m looking for the potential of them being interested in what I have to offer.

Usually, once they have slowed down, they get around to asking me about me. Hopefully I’ve discovered enough to customize my delivery in a way that relates to something I’ve learned during my questioning phase. My goal is to use a related story about something we have done that relates to them. Once the conversation gets around to me, I usually dominate it. I’ll quite often get “Wow, I’ve experienced that same thing,” that opens additional conversation about potential solutions and away we go.

How do you handle networking conversations?  What techniques have you found helpful?