By Nan Nan Liu-Maffetone | Strong Female Leaders
Reading Time: Approx. 7 minutes
Target Audience: Professional Women, Entrepreneurial Women

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The ability to carry out a natural conversation in a professional setting holds the key to success.
A person's conversational competency is both an art and a skill. It requires knowing when to initiate, continue, and end a dialogue with genuine interest and kindness. If you weren't born a smooth talker, though, please don't fret. Truthfully, no one is. In fact, conversational skill is mastered by intentional learning and practicing, just like playing the piano.

If you need a place to start, here are five easy ways to get going:

1. Exude confidence by having something valuable to add to the conversation.
You cannot exude confidence without being comfortable in your own skin. You cannot be comfortable, in any situation, if you don't have much value to contribute. When you can bring something that others want to the table, you know it, and will command your body language to follow suit. You will stand straight, hold your head high, smile and look welcoming, and display open gestures because you are speaking the truth and with authority.

Your entire attitude will be contagious. Your enthusiasm will be infectious. You will light up the conversation and be remembered as "that unforgettable woman."

2. Do your homework.
If you find yourself lacking interesting things to say, then start looking out for new material. Smart reads such as The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and Foundr Magazine offer relevant news and information that make great discussion topics. Before important events like business luncheons or industry conferences, you might want to brush up on the latest topics so you know exactly how to guide your conversations, answer questions, and speak like a pro.

3. Focus on others, not yourself.
Ever sat through a conversation with someone who won't stop talking about himself? You don't want to be that person. Instead, be inquisitive, ask out-of-the-box questions, and show genuine interest. Simple starters such as "what are your hobbies" and "what are your plans this weekend" not only put others at ease but also position yourself as someone who is interesting, smart and good at listening.

Afterward, build rapport by finding commonalities with the person, and continue to stay away from business talk. If you want to make meaningful connections, stick with fun topics that relax the mood.

4. Be inclusive.
Excluding others isn't cool. Plus, you are not in high school anymore. Be that cool chick who smiles at the entire group, makes eye contact with everyone, and welcomes anyone who wishes to join the conversation. It's not about popularity or even likability, but about making others feel welcomed, comfortable, and respected.

5. Know when to walk away, and do it with class.
All engagements come to an end. When the conversation begins to lull, keep sharp, get intentional about leaving, and strategize on how to end on a high. You want to politely bid everyone good-bye, but also keep it short and avoid lingering. A great trick is to start pointing your feet to the exit but continue smiling and maintain eye contact. A few seconds later, slowly turn your torso to the exit as well. This works in a digital conversation too. Just make sure your movements are subtler than they are in person. If it helps, practice with someone until you stop feeling awkward.

Parting thoughts.
In the digital age and worsened by COVID-19, conversational competency has become a lost art. Even if we are meeting online and staying home, we must not forget how powerful a great conversation can be. You could literally talk your way into new opportunities.

Be that woman who lights up the room, including Zoom breakout rooms, and never forget just how unforgettable you are.

Become a Smooth Talker with These
1) Stress-Free Small Talk: How to Master the Art of Conversation and Take Control of Your Social Anxiety
2) How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships

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