Nine Little Things to Improve Conversation

“It’s almost impossible to have fun playing ping pong with someone who doesn’t care, won’t try or isn’t any good. Ping with no Pong is no fun. The same is true of conversation. I call this the ‘Table Tennis Conversation Model.'”

~ Loren Ekroth

Nine Little Things to Improve Conversation

By Loren Ekroth, Ph.D.

You know that networking is important, but doing it well is a whole other ballgame. What do you talk about? What do you need to do to make a good impression? What does a good networking conversation look like?

I invite you to explore Loren Ekroth’s list of 9 simple and effective ways to improve your networking conversations so that you do make a great impression!

Here are nine little things you can add to enhance the quality of your conversations:

  1. Use the other person’s name from time to time during the talking. Such as “I agree with you, Betty, and will support your proposal.” Our names are precious to us, and nearly everyone has a feel-good experience when being addressed by name. “Gary, would you call me tomorrow with the quote?”
  2. Instead of asking general questions such as “How’s it going?” ask specific personal questions like “How does your son like Dental School?” Being specific shows that you remember details about matters important to the other person, such as the family, special interests, certain challenges. Routine and general questions usually elicit only routine responses like “Fine, thanks.”
  3. Lighten up the talk with a smile. Even with serious topics, a friendly smile can be appropriate and can add a measure of good will that is helpful in advancing understanding. (Being serious tends to suppress feelings and makes the tone of our conversation seem flat.) Relax, drop your shoulders, breathe.
  4. Respect people’s time for talking so that you don’t hold them hostage. If you’re uncertain, ask “Do you have a few minutes to talk now?” This is especially useful for telephone conversation.
  5. Give the other conversers their turn to talk. You can do this by talking in paragraphs, not chapters, and then signaling it’s their turn with a question like “What are your thoughts?”
  6. Adjust your voice controls for easy listening. These include speed, volume, pitch, and tone of voice so that listening to you can actually be pleasurable.
  7. Share some information of value to the other, perhaps a tip like “I recently found a great car mechanic. He does good work fast, and cost is very reasonable.”
  8. When you’re with someone, give your full attention. The gift of your presence and attention is quietly powerful and strengthens relationships. Fully engaged listening is rare in our multi-tasking worlds of work and home. When you listen, just listen. Don’t wander.
  9. End your conversation gracefully, and not abruptly. When appropriate, thank or compliment the other person when you are ending. “I really enjoyed talking with you and now I finally understand that concept. Thanks a lot.”

These little things add a quality of civility and care to any conversation. Ultimately, they mean a lot because attitudes tend to be reciprocated. When you pay attention and include these little things, others will often do these same things for you, and that makes for a satisfying talk.

Used with permission of Dr. Loren Ekroth, publisher of “Better Conversations” newsletter. Complimentary subscriptions at


What one action from the list above are you doing (or … not doing) well? Take some time this week to work on it — and then use the comment section below to let me know how it goes!