Have you ever asked someone a question at a networking event or business meal, such as “how are you?”… and they tell you?

And they go on and on?

You were trying to be polite and begin a short conversation, and now you hear an autobiography.

Please Stop

You fear you are about to have to look at surgery pictures on their phone.

You start thinking that you don’t care about their sleep habits, or the fiftieth picture of their grandchild, their migraines, or how they feel about the current administration.


Are you that person who goes on too long?

Do you notice that some people tend to avoid you? While talking with someone do you see that they get a glazed look, or they are looking over your shoulder trying to find an exit strategy?

There are times and places for revealing all you know about something, including how you are feeling.

However, business gatherings are not the appropriate place.

Ping Pong

While no metaphor is perfect, welcomed conversation at these events is somewhat like a friendly low key ping pong game with the conversation ball going back and forth over the net.

You talk a little, and the other person talks a little, and then you, and back and forth.

There are gatherings where in-depth soul bearing might be appropriate.

These could be mastermind meetings or retreats or encounter groups or coaching or mentoring sessions, which are meant for full engagement.

And of course, if only two people are meeting outside a business meeting setting and they have developed a relationship with sharing and going deep into a topic as a part of it, that is entirely appropriate. But that is not a typical business meeting.

But, even then, it is wise to be aware of the other person’s mood and the timing so that you don’t overstep the boundary between conversation and in-depth sharing when it is not welcome at that time.

Restraint applies to asking questions of the other person as well. Some people come across as if they are the Grand Inquisitor.

To go deep, we need to get permission and still be aware of when it is just too much.

To be a good conversationalist, we must have skills for thinking on our feet, speaking off the cuff and knowing when to help the other person hit the ball across the net to keep the game in play. These skills also involve knowing how to handle spins and slams.

  • Don’t be a conversation hog.
  • The conversation should be like a ping-pong game.
  • Consider saving personal matters to another time and place.
  • Don’t ask too many profound and intrusive questions without permission.
  • Thinking on your feet and speaking off the cuff in conversation is important.

If your organization needs a program about Professional Presence, Basic Presentation Skills for Overcoming Stage Fright or Thinking on Your Feet and Speaking Off the Cuff, see my Speakers Page at www.thebreakoutsession.com and contact me at thailey@tomhailey.com or 1-859-474-2806.