I am a introvert by nature. Being the one to start a conversation is not easy for me; in fact it goes beyond that to down right difficult. This is an area I am actively trying to change and have made significant progress using some of the tips outlined here. 1. Exude confidence. When you are comfortable in your own skin, you make others comfortable. Confidence is attractive; it acts like a magnet, drawing others to you. If you take the attitude that you bring something to the table, you will see that attitude reflected in others. Enthusiasm is infectious! 2. Show up with something to say. Always be on the lookout for topics and material. Keep up with the news, read business magazines, etc. looking for interesting and timely information that can be shared at the next get together. Perhaps even keep a file to review before the next event. 3. Begin with a question. One simple question can start a conversation. Have a few on hand and ask something a bit unusual to set you apart and make you memorable. i.e. “How do you enjoy spending your weekends?” Admire something and ask an open ended question in conjunction. i.e. “What a great buffet! What is your favorite dish?” 4. Find common ground. Build rapport by finding something you have in common and building on it. Find something to appreciate and be genuine in your appreciation. 5. Focus on others. Put you energy and interest in the other person. People love to talk about themselves. Continue to keep the conversation going back and forth by refocusing on them. 6. Be inclusive. Make eye contact with everyone in the group, not just the person who directly asked you a question. 7. Keep body language open and receptive. Nod in agreement, make significant and genuine eye contact, lean toward the other person, and even touch them on the arm if you are a touchy-feely kind of person. Do keep a reasonable bubble of personal space with strangers however. 8. Stay engaged in the conversation. Stay focused on them and do not allow your attention to wander to other areas of the room, either mentally or physically. Give acknowledgement cues such as “wow”, “cool”, or “that’s awesome”, etc. It let’s them know you are engaged. Keep your eyes on them. When your eyes wander off beyond their shoulder, the person you are talking to knows they are no longer the center of your attention. 9. Close a conversation with class and kindness. When a conversation naturally lulls, take advantage and say, “It’s been a pleasure talking to you. I hope our paths cross again sometime.” and get their contact information if applicable. Words are important. They can teach, inform, reprimand, coerce, and encourage. Words can change people’s lives. Effective communication plays a critical role in every person’s life – helping us be better friends, parents, business partners, employees, and better people. The ability to hold a natural conversation is one of the keys to success, not only in the business world, but in life. Knowing when to initiate a discussion, keeping it interesting by asking effective questions, sharing your own stories, and ending the conversation tactfully and effectively is an art. When you take the time to acquire and hone good communication skills you open yourself up to better relationships, more career opportunities, and increased self-confidence. Moreover, you reach higher levels of mutual understanding and cooperation while successfully attaining your goals.