Energy and confidence radiate from Claire. She wears a hat, because it is fun, and she loves them. Her easy manner and interesting topic kept her audience riveted at her recent talk on the art of conversation, one of a series of talks on the subject. The venue was the elegant Saint James on Venice hotel, where guests also enjoyed one of their renowned high teas and light music from Peter Enslin on piano.
“We take conversation for granted – until there is a drought. What am I going to say next? And what if I am trapped by a boring person?” Claire gave helpful hints and tips people need to know to be invited back, and also what not to do so you won’t be the one people avoid.
Before the function choose to have a positive attitude about the event. What you focus on is what you will get. Say to yourself ‘I wonder what interesting person I am going to meet.’ Take responsibility to enjoy yourself. Go up to someone and introduce yourself. Be the one to offer food around. Conversation starts over a plate of snacks; invite people to join you. Help to create a pleasant, light and positive atmosphere. Don’t take over from the hostess, but be helpful in the sidelines. Before the event think of a few conversation starters that sound natural. Have ideas in your head that you can use to start conversations. Find out who will be at the function and plan an interesting conversation with them,” Claire advised.
“To be an interesting person you need to be interested. Read, listen, think about what you have read and heard. Pay special attention to making a good impression from the moment you walk in. Dress for confidence, for yourself and according to the dress code. Command interest when walking into a room; a smile, good eye contact and an energetic posture will draw people to you.”
“ice breakers are useful: at a wedding for instance, ask a stranger whether they know the bride or the groom; ask how and where they met; talk about the venue. Pick up on current topics; ‘have you been following the Olympics?’ and then let the conversation flow from one topic to the next.”
“Some don’ts: don’t make negative fault finding remarks. Don’t grumble, gossip or belittle; never be manipulative, sarcastic or aggressive; don’t monopolise the conversation. When others criticise just say ‘well there you go’. It stops it dead and you can change the subject. If you are the target of someone’s sarcasm, cut it by expressing what they have done: ‘Oh that hurt’ or ‘that was nasty’. Smile and the chances are they won’t do that again. Avoid the opportunity to make a bitchy comeback!”
“Making conversation is a learnt skill. You, too, can master the art of conversation,” Claire concluded. To learn more about Claire’s talks, visit www.clairenewton.co.za or www.stjamesonvenice.co.za.
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