How to Be a Person of Interest

Does this sound familiar?  You’re in a casual work setting holding a drink, (conference, trade show, networking reception) and engage in conversation with someone you don’t know.  About 45 seconds in, you notice their eyes wandering, looking for someone more interesting to talk to.  They make their excuses, wander away, and you’re left feeling invisible.

To get somewhere, you need to get noticed.

Here are a few ways to become a person of interest to others:

  1. Be able to say what you do succinctly, in about 5 seconds.  The 30 second ‘elevator pitch’ is dead.  In an age when ‘forever’ means 60 seconds, you’re better off making it succinct.  Instead, give your 5 second blurb, and see if it provokes interest.  If so, pursue a deeper conversation.  If not, move on. Mine varies depending on the situation, but usually it’s something like: “I help companies in fast growth solve their people problems.”  If they want to know more, they can ask.  If not, they’re not my prospect anyway.
  2. Read stuff.  Be aware of current regional, national and international events.  Read magazines and newspapers of record (I like the Wall Street Journal and the National Post).  Read fiction.  Read history.  Read current business books.  All of these things help you carry your end of the conversation.
  3. Travel.  Places are interesting, and sharing memories of places visited is a sure way to find common ground.
  4. Get personal.  Don’t be afraid to talk about non-work things that are interesting to you.  Rehashing industry gossip gets boring real fast.
  5. Ask great questions.  This is the ultimate trump card to being thought of as a great conversationalist.  I’ve learned about everything from the cultivation of Bonsai trees to the wide world of raising ostriches.  People’s interests are interesting to me.Many times I’ve sat in groups and revealed nothing of myself, but simply asked multiple questions of others.  People love to talk about themselves and things that interest them.  If you give them the chance to do so, they’ll leave with great memories of what a great conversationalist you were.  Being listened to with genuine interest is a rare experience for most people.  Give them this gift and they’ll appreciate it.
  6. Pursue interests yourself.  Have something to talk about other than work.  Be able to talk about your car hobby or your teacup collection or your passion for watches or the course you’re taking in woodworking.  One guy I met travels around the world taking a picture of his foot in front of the headstones of famous people, now departed.  Interesting.

The way to be interesting is to be interested.   Get curious.

Try one of these next time, (especially #5) and you will get great results.

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