I’m going to share something with you now that not many people know; I really feel uncomfortable meeting new people and making conversation.  Well actually, this statement is how I used to feel because now I make use of a professional trainer skill that is easily turned it into a great way to make easy conversation:

As a personality type, I used to be slightly introverted which for those that meet me now find quite surprising, but I did find engaging in conversations difficult with people I didn’t know.  I could say the initial, “Oh hello lovely to meet you” and pleasantries but would find it awkward and embarrassing as the conversation dried up.  “Where do I go next, what am I going to say” I’m thinking in my head.  ‘Awkward’ probably doesn’t go far enough to describe these moments, especially when you’re a trainer!  Unsurprisingly then, my reaction to struggling to make conversation was to try and avoid it at all costs; avoiding eye contact, making excuses or simply sticking with people I knew and turning my back on an opportunity to engage with others. My behaviour then resulted in a perception of me being arrogant, ignorant, aloof etc.  Again, really not ideal at all as a trainer, especially when you are meeting new people all of the time and have to make them feel as comfortable as possible.  Then I realised that one of the techniques I’ve used for years (and now also teach) with great success to get engagement in my training sessions is also perfect for conversations – Open Questions!

Open questions that are correctly asked, take you down multiple avenues of further conversation and a chance to get a great conversation going; specifically open questions phrased with the 4W’s H, T at the beginning; here are some great examples:

“What did you do when…?”

“Where did you go…?”

“Why did you choose the…?”

“When did you start…?”

“How did you…?”

Tell me when you…?”

“Talk to me about…?”

So no longer the awkwardness, the red face and ploy to avoid conversation when meeting new people, it was really as simple as getting to grips with questions, a great example of how to properly engage in the art of conversation.  If you feel the same way as I did in conversation, give this technique a go and see what happens; think too of the added bonus that you’ll also be practising and refining open questions for your training sessions!

Scott Fraser is a Master Trainer at Target Training and delivers our PTT Train the Trainer courses and our Advanced PTT Train the Trainer courses.  You can read more about him here.